Opinionista Paul Trewhela 1 April 2020

To the Minister of Justice: Act Now!

‘We owe it to the many suffering – homeless, starving and moneyless comrades who are unable to educate or otherwise educate their children – to get this right.’

Webber Wentzel attorneys in Johannesburg have sent a report to Ronald Lamola, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, stating that the Master of the South Gauteng High Court, Leonard Pule, had “not done anything” to implement a directive issued nearly two years ago by Judge Seun Moshidi in a case involving one of Jacob Zuma’s leading ANC supporters, Kebby Maphatsoe.

The case relates to one of the most highly contested issues dividing members of Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), with a focus on abuse of funds of the MK Veterans Trust.

In his court order, dated 28 May 2018, Judge Moshidi ordered that the four respondents, all of them Zuma’s supporters – Chilton Dumisani Khoza, Nkopane Johannes Motseki, Emmanuel Ramaotwana Maphatsoe and Deacon Sekibela Mathe – be removed from their positions as trustees, in terms of section 20 (10) of the Trust Property Control Act, 57, of 1988.

This order had immediate effect, the four respondents not having even appeared in court to contest the application.

Maphatsoe has been national chairperson of MKMVA since 2007, and was deputy minister of defence (2014-2019), appointed by Zuma. He lost his position in the government under Cyril Ramaphosa after he was removed by the court as trustee of the MKMVA Trust Fund. He is the longest-serving ANC MP in the National Assembly.

In recent months, Maphatsoe has been active in attempting to preserve his position through a unity conference between MKMVA, of which he remains head, and the MK Council, led by former SADF general Siphiwe Nyanda and the current deputy minister of defence and military veterans, Thabang Makwetla. After preparatory meetings of MK veterans across the country, the unity conference was indefinitely postponed at the beginning of last month. See:

NEWSFLASH: MK vets conference postponed amid questions about missing trust fund money

The five applicants were represented by advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC and advocate N Mbelle from Duma Nokwe and Victoria Mxenge Group of Advocates, acting pro bono on behalf of Moray Hathorn of attorneys Webber Wentzel.

The two issues brought to the attention of Justice Minister Lamola are Judge Moshidi’s direction to the Master of the High Court to “appoint a trustee after consultation with the interested parties” and “conduct an investigation into the administration of the trust”.

In the report sent to the minister, attorneys Webber Wentzel argue that the Master was “served with all the court papers and has not responded up to now”.

The report, dated 25 March 2020, was signed by the first applicant, Omry Makgoale, following a meeting in Sandton City with Webber Wentzel partner Moray Hathorn.

Makgoale was district commander of MK in the Angolan capital, Luanda, during the Cold War in Angola, and was later elected by ANC exiles as chair of the ANC’s Regional Political Committee in Tanzania in a democratic election of committee members in September 1989. His election was disallowed by an order of the ANC National Executive Committee in Lusaka, Zambia, enforced by Chris Hani and Stanley Mabizela at a meeting of ANC exiles in Dakawa camp, Tanzania, on 24 December 1989, only weeks before the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela.

As MK district commander in Luanda, Makgoale had been called urgently to come to Viana camp in February 1984, to prevent a threatened massacre of MK troops surrounded by armoured troops of the Angolan Presidential Guard, called in by the MK High Command following demands by MK cadres for democratic reforms in MK and a curb on perceived corruption.

Following negotiation with the commander of the Presidential Guard, Makgoale diffused the threat of massacre by persuading MK cadres to surrender their weapons. Along with leaders of the protest, he was then arrested by the ANC security department – known as Mbokodo, “The Grindstone” – and was tortured by them in Luanda state security prison, before being held as prisoner under brutal conditions in Quatro prison camp in northern Angola for nearly five years.

He is chief engineer at Necsa nuclear power plant at Pelindaba, following study as a mechanical engineer in London and at Wits. As a participant in the march of school learners in Soweto against Bantu Education on 16 June 1976, when he was a matric student at Morris Isaacson High School, he helped to organise the annual Tsietsi Mashinini Memorial Lecture at the school.

Makgoale was elected by over 900 MK veterans as chair of a commissariat at a Cadres Assembly held in Pretoria/Tshwane in April 2011, which mandated him to inquire into perceived mishandling of MKMVA Trust funds. The commissariat commissioned a forensic audit of the financial affairs of the trust by accountants Gobodo, which produced an interim audit which formed the basis of a failed court application by Makgoale in the South Gauteng High Court in June 2012.

The report now sent to the minister of justice by Webber Wentzel is the outcome of this long struggle, following the successful application by five MK veterans in 2018.

The first trustee designate proposed by the applicants, Mavuso Msimang, is currently rehabilitating in Tshwane Rehab Centre after a massive back operation. He has written to the five applicants, stating: 

We owe it to the many suffering – homeless, starving and moneyless comrades who are unable to educate or otherwise educate their children – to get this right.” 

Msimang is former chief executive of the State Information Technology Agency (Sita). He was Oliver Tambo’s private secretary in Lusaka in1971, worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund in Ethiopia as head of emergency programmes and was the first black chief executive of South African Tourism from 1994 to 1996.

In their answering affidavit, the respondents admitted that they had failed to open a bank account for the trust and had ignored pleas by the applicants to be given access to its financial affairs.

Webber Wentzel’s conclusion from the Gobodo report was that recurring “large payments were made from the bank accounts” of two firms, Mabutho Investment Holdings and MKMVA Investment Holdings, for individuals “who are coincidentally trustees of the trust… in which they are principals”.

Webber Wentzel concluded: “Enormous amounts of money are being deposited directly to the trustees.”

In relation to the first respondent, Khoza, it summarised Gobodo’s findings that between 7 September 2006 and 2 October 2010 a total of 67 payments, made or received by Khoza amounted to R477,711, ranging from “cash withdrawals, purchase of rings, beauty spa, car payments, travel expenses, work done on a pool at one of his houses, TV installation, payments for his children’s drama classes, photos, speech, tutorial lessons and examination fees”.

It continued: “Nine payments were made to Look About Supermarkets amounting to R381,069 of which the first respondent is the sole director.”

The report found that eight payments were made to Kebby Maphatsoe between 20 March 2006 and 2 July 2010 amounting to R113,637. DM

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