Anger over unpaid debts

2009-03-18 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG businessman whose brother is the director-general of the national Health Department has been accused of alleged financial mismanagement by those he contracted to stage a TB awareness play.

City Printing Works in Pietermaritzburg, a Johannesburg-based theatre company and a group of actors claim that Thandukukhanya “TK” Mseleku has failed to pay them in full for their involvement in the project.

Mseleku, whose brother is Thami Mseleku, was contracted by the Italian Co-operation Project — through the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department — to run a R250 000 project that involved staging a 30-minute TB awareness puppet show at primary schools around the province.

In addition, he was given R624 218,50 by the Italian government for printing children’s pamphlets, colouring-in pictures and cough hygiene posters for the campaign.

On Monday, the project came to a halt because arepp: Theatre for Life — the company contracted to hire and train the actors, write the script and supply puppets and sets for the play — withdrew its licence.

Director Brigid Schutz said they are still waiting to get R78 227,86 from Mseleku and have started legal proceedings to recover the money.

Also awaiting payment are Mbo Mtshali, Nozipho Manqele, Sne Makanya and Mlondi Zondi, who performed in the shows. They claim they were short-paid more than once and are currently waiting to receive their salaries from last week and their daily living expenses for the past two weeks.

They also say they were housed in sub-standard accommodation, that a Caravelle they were supplied with by Mseleku was impounded by the traffic police in Ixopo for being unroadworthy and that arrangements made with the schools were often a shambles.

They have now opened a case with the CCMA in respect of the unpaid money and breach of contractual terms.

City Printing Works is also out of pocket. The company’s financial director, Robin Barnes, said they are still owed R57 492,12 for printing the awareness material and are now considering laying a charge of fraud against Mseleku.

Why the suppliers have not received their money remains a mystery. A copy of a contract between Mseleku and the Italian Co-operation Project states that Mseleku would be paid R127 461,45 on signing the contract, R297 410,05 after the TB materials were printed and R99 673,50 at the start of the awareness campaign. The first instalment of R125 000 for the puppet show was paid when he signed the contract in November 2008.

Project co-ordinator for the Italian Co-operation Project, Vincenzo Ragone, confirmed that Mseleku received all the monies owed to him, except the final payments, which are being withheld as he was unable to complete the project.

He also expressed concern that suppliers have not been paid, but insisted that the organisation has no complaints about the awareness project itself, which he said was a success.

“The play has been performed at most of the schools selected and the printing materials we commissioned were supplied,” he said.

“The only problem is that the campaign wasn’t completed, but we will be doing our best to make arrangements to take the play to the districts it has not yet been too.”

Health spokeswoman Sebe Zwane said they will investigate the allegations and want to ensure the matter is resolved because the Italian government was involved. She added that as far as she was aware, proper procurement procedures were followed.

When approached to comment on the allegations, Mseleku refused to talk to The Witness.

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