Businessman ‘offers’ to pay for Nkandla report to be scrapped

2014-10-12 15:00

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A politically 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 self-funding. 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.

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