THROW­ING MONEY AT NKANDLA

It’s been a week in which of­fers from shad­owy lobby groups and busi­ness­men alike have come pour­ing in to help the pres­i­dent #payback­themoney

CityPress - - Front Page - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­press.co.za

Apo­lit­i­cally con­nected Umh­langa busi­ness­man linked to al­le­ga­tions of high-level cor­rup­tion in the po­lice, al­legedly of­fered to foot the bill for a court bid to have Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s Nkand­la­gate re­port scrapped. In the week in which a shad­owy lobby group back­ing Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma of­fered to pay his share of the Nkand­la­gate tab, al­le­ga­tions have arisen that Thoshan Pan­day of­fered to fund court ac­tion by the Con­cerned Lawyers and Ed­u­ca­tion­ists for Equal­ity Be­fore the Law to have Man­don­sela’s Nkandla re­port set aside.

The group of lawyers and SA Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union (Sadtu) lead­ers, headed by Dur­ban at­tor­ney Com­fort Ngidi and Sadtu KwaZulu-Natal sec­re­tary Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, have mo­bilised against Madon­sela since she is­sued her re­port, Se­cure in Com­fort, in March.

First the group planned an ap­pli­ca­tion for a high court re­view of her re­port and then it ap­proached Par­lia­ment in a bid to have Madon­sela fired.

A mem­ber of the group who at­tended the gath­er­ing told City Press this week that, at a meet­ing of its lead­ers to dis­cuss le­gal strat­egy shortly after the elec­tions, Ngidi told those present that Pan­day had of­fered to pay for the ac­tion.

The meet­ing was held at Sadtu’s Dur­ban of­fice, he said.

“There was a dis­cus­sion around brief­ing se­nior coun­sel to take the mat­ter to court.

“There were names raised in terms of who would be briefed. At this stage, Com­fort came for­ward with the in­for­ma­tion that Thoshan Pan­day had of­fered to pay for the cost of coun­sel and court ac­tion,” the source said.

“I am not aware what the decision taken was,” the lawyer said.

Pan­day twice re­fused to con­firm or deny the of­fer or that he is fund­ing the lobby group. “I give fund­ing to lots of or­gan­i­sa­tions,” he said. Pan­day later agreed to meet City Press and dis­cuss the mat­ter, but can­celled be­cause of a “fam­ily emer­gency”.

Ngidi de­nied that the dis­cus­sion on fund­ing from Pan­day ever took place.

“I have never dis­cussed the mat­ter with Thoshan Pan­day, even ca­su­ally,” Ngidi said.

“There was no such of­fer. As an or­gan­i­sa­tion we are self­fund­ing. Any­body look­ing for our fun­ders will have to search very hard as there aren’t any. As we take on tasks, in­di­vid­u­als in­volved bear the cost. That is how we op­er­ate. There’s no need for me to lie about this.”

Pan­day, who in 2011 was al­leged to be a silent business part­ner of the pres­i­dent’s son Ed­ward, has been at the cen­tre of a lengthy court bat­tle with the Hawks over his al­leged scam­ming of R10 mil­lion from the SAPS dur­ing 2010.

Pan­day, who has a taste for flam­boy­ant sports cars and has min­ing in­ter­ests in cen­tral Africa, was then ar­rested for al­legedly try­ing to bribe Hawks KwaZulu-Natal head Ma­jor-Gen­eral Jo­han Booy­sen with R2 mil­lion to drop the case.

He was ar­rested in a sting op­er­a­tion and charged, but the case was even­tu­ally dropped be­cause of al­legedly il­le­gal phone tap­ping.

A new group which this week en­tered the fray over Nkand­la­gate, the Pub­lic Unit Mem­bers’ Team (Pumt), has of­fered in a let­ter to Par­lia­ment to pay any costs at­trib­uted to Zuma.

How­ever the group, fronted by Dur­ban mu­sic and video pro­ducer Vume­lani Mchunu and rap­per Sim­phiwe Ngema, went to ground this week­end after their of­fer drew in­tense me­dia and pub­lic scru­tiny.

On Fri­day, Mchunu, who op­er­ates the Pumt out of a block of flats in Avoca Hills in north Dur­ban, agreed to meet City Press to dis­cuss the or­gan­i­sa­tion and how it hopes to raise the money. The build­ing also houses pri­mary health­care NPO Izigi Zen­tuthuko.

Mchunu then re­quested a list of de­tailed ques­tions, which were pro­vided, and re­ferred City Press to Ngema, the group’s spokesper­son.

Ngema didn’t an­swer, say­ing in­stead that once Par­lia­ment had re­sponded, the group would call a press con­fer­ence.

Early in­di­ca­tions are that the group’s of­fer may be an act of bravado – rather than a gen­uine bid by any par­tic­u­lar pro-Zuma lobby – to cre­ate a front for an of­fer to set­tle the debt and end the em­bar­rass­ment to the pres­i­dent. Ngidi told City Press he was taken aback by Pumt’s of­fer. “I have no idea who they are or where they come from. We have no re­la­tion­ship with them at all,” Ngidi said.

The DA said on Fri­day it be­lieved the or­gan­i­sa­tion was “at best a front and a dis­trac­tion and quite pos­si­bly a fraud”.

The op­po­si­tion party said the ad­dress given by the Pumt was, ac­cord­ing to city records, “va­cant land”.

The DA said it con­firmed this by search­ing Google Maps and it would con­duct an “in loco” visit to in­ves­ti­gate the site fur­ther.

PHO­TOS: MATTHEW MID­DLE­TON AND THE WIT­NESS

DEEP POCK­ETS Busi­ness­man Thoshan Pan­day and the flats at 250 Avoca Hills, the ad­dress given for the Pub­lic Mem­bers’ Unit Team

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