Agang man’s IEC forgery

2014-06-14 00:00

AGANG SA’s former chief operations officer has admitted to forging the signature of the party’s leadership in documents submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in order to access the party political funding.

This astonishing admission by Andrew Gasnolar (28) to Weekend Witness comes in a week where the party’s top leadership accused the party’s president Mamphela Ramphele of fraud.

His admission is corroborated by a series of e-mails — seen by Weekend Witness — in which Gasnolar admits his actions to Agang SA deputy president Molapi Tlouamma.

But the e-mails also reveal a deepening rift within the party’s top structures. It was Tlouamma and the party’s chairperson Michael Tshishonga who opened a case of fraud against Ramphele on Tuesday.

The scandal has rocked the party with Ramphele, who also opened a case of fraud on Thursday, threatening disciplinary action against Tlouamma for accusing her of fraud.

Gasnolar forged the signatures of Ramphele and Tshishonga on official documents in the possession of Weekend Witness belonging to both the party and the IEC to gain access to the Political Parties Fund in line with the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act.

But Gasnolar — who is off to the U.S. soon to participate as a Washington Fellow in the inaugural programme of President Barack Obama’s the Young African Leadership Initiative — said he did so all in “good faith”, “in haste” and to appease an “agitated IEC”.

Gasnolar also admitted that instead of setting up a new bank account — as he had told the IEC — he used an old Nedbank current account belonging to an unregistered non-profit organisation called the Cubbiehole Trust, as the destination account for the IEC funds. The trust’s online profile claims to protect the lives of the physically handicapped, the elderly, children and women.

Gasnolar is listed as the contact person. No record of the NPO being registered with the Department of Social Development could be found.

Last week the IEC deposited R65 846 into the Nedbank account.

In the e-mail to Tlouamma on Wednesday morning, Gasnolar admitted he had set up the account without a resolution from the party’s national executive committee, but that he apologised for the “confusion caused” and that there was no “ulterior motive”.

In a second e-mail to Tlouamma on Wednesday afternoon, Gasnolar also indicated that he had spoken to Nedbank and “told them [the] account will not be needed so that has been dealt with too and closed”.

Gasnolar said he was trying to assist the party — whose leadership was delayed in taking a resolution to open up a bank account for the funds.

“In trying to assist [and] expedite forms I submitted documents in haste and confirmed there was never intention to act fraudulently or illegally. I’ve put this in an affidavit … and sent it to them [Agang SA] confirming I had no intention of committing fraud or the like,” Gasnolar told the paper via e-mail.

But Tshishonga is not buying any of it. “I don’t think this is a mistake. If this had not been picked up I would have been held accountable for a bank account I had no control over. We have since passed a resolution to set up three bank accounts formally, of which one would be for the IEC payments and the other two for payments from Parliament.”

Gasnolar said using the account of the non-profit was only intended as a “short-term step”.

“… Obviously in light of the resolution and the like I immediately took steps to make sure any funds were remitted.”

Tlouamma said he would reserve his comment until the investigation was completed. But the episode has rocked the party. In a series of heated e-mails Tlouamma told Ramphele the fraud allegation could “truly taint your name [and] it [may] even damage your credibility as the leader of the party”.

He called on the party leader to “clarify the … allegations”. In response, Ramphele said Tlouamma’s e-mail came as a “shock and a disappointment”.

“Your e-mail contains a threat to communicate certain defamatory allegations which are clearly misinformed. Your conduct is not only irregular, but aimed at the disturbing the good order in the party …” she said.

Tlouamma told Weekend Witness yesterday that there had been no further mention of a disciplinary hearing.

AGANG SA president Dr Mamphela Ramphele said in a statement yesterday there will be suspensions in the party.

Her comments come after a week of allegations and counter allegations of fraud in accessing funding from the Independent Electoral Commission. During the week Agang SA spokesperson Donald Tontsi said the charges were opened against Ramphele because “we are aware she wanted to squander the money”.

Ramphele said: “I fully expect there will be several suspensions from the party as information has come to light about the activities of some members of the party who have chosen to indulge in selfish and self-centred behaviour when what we need to do is re-build the party, and remain faithful to the principles our voters voted for. Those who made, and continue to make untested allegations in the media to tarnish my reputation as president, will be disciplined,” says Ramphele.

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