Diary of the Nafcoc coup

2009-11-14 13:22

THIS year is turning out to be another that is threatening to bury the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) under the weight of its success.

For the umpteenth time the 45-year-old organisation has been ­disrupted by leadership infighting.

This week Nafcoc president Buhle Mthethwa was toppled when a group led by the foxy businessman, Lawrence Mavundla, declared itself the new leadership and seized control of the chamber’s head office in Rivonia, Johannesburg.

The Mavundla group conspired with Nafcoc’s investment arm, Nafhold, to overthrow the Mthethwa ­executive committee. Mavundla is ­also president of the African Co-operative for Hawkers and ­Informal Businesses.

A Nafcoc senior executive who spoke on condition of anonymity mapped out how the Mavundla faction mounted its coup over the past two weeks.

First they held elections last week, where Mavundla and his backers were voted into Nafcoc executive committee positions. Then, on learning that Mthethwa’s executives had not signed a lease agreement for Nafcoc House, Nafcoc’s headquarters, they signed it and moved in.

“On Saturday at about 11am we came with the landlord and changed all the locks,” said the source.

“On Monday we arrived at Nafcoc House at 7.30am and waited in our cars for them (the Mthethwa leadership and her staff) to arrive. The first person to come was Mthethwa’s personal assistant, who then quickly called her when he discovered that the keys failed to open the doors.”

The Mavundla leadership then locked the doors and posted three security guards at the entrance. The guards were sponsored by Nafhold in what could be interpreted as an explicit show of support for the ­Mavundla camp.

When Mthethwa arrived with the police they could not do much after being presented with a lease agreement by the Mavundla camp.

The source conceded it could have taken a long legal battle to wrest Nafcoc House from Mthethwa’s grip had she signed a lease agreement.

The building’s landlord is Caresbee Investments, a company whose sole director is Michael Leaf, the chief executive of Nafhold.

Leaf said Mthethwa was repeatedly asked to sign the lease agreement as she had been occupying the building since April.

“But she refused to sign it and did not pay rent,” Leaf said.

He said Nafhold was forced to tell the Mavundla camp that Mthethwa had not signed the lease as there was an acrimonious relationship caused when she organised a march against Nafhold last month.

The march was in relation to R1.8?billion in shares that Nafhold was to disburse to Nafcoc members.

Leaf said there was nothing sinister about him being the director of Caresbee.

“There are no hidden agendas. The company is solely owned by Nafcoc Investment Trust and I do not derive any income from being the director,” he said.

He said a decision was made that it would be more cost-effective for Nafcoc House to be owned by a company rather than a trust.

“It is wiser for Nafcoc House to be owned by Caresbee because it would pay 28% of its income tax,” said Leaf.

“If Nafcoc House was owned by Nafcoc Trust, this would mean the tax law would require us to pay 40% in income tax.”

Mthethwa refused to comment, and referred questions to Jabu Khumalo, who did not answer his phone or return messages.

In an interview earlier this week Khumalo labelled the Mavundla camp as thugs.

Former Nafcoc president Sam Motsuenyane said he was disappointed by the recent developments.

“When I was Nafcoc president for 24 years the federation looked up to the constitution for stability and ­unity,” said Motsuenyane.

“What pains me the most is that we are currently being divided over money rather than issues facing small businesses. When we begin fighting among ourselves the organisation becomes ineffective.”

He said he only learned about the infighting from the media and he could not pass judgment.

“I am not in a position to make any judgement as I don’t have any information. All I know is that today’s Nafcoc is very different from the one I led,” he said.

Sonyosi Sikhosana, national industrial chamber president and now deputy president of Nafcoc, said the Mavundla camp had met almost all the constitutional requirements to hold an annual general meeting to vote in a new executive committee.

He said the process to elect Mavundla as president was concluded when voting took place at last week’s annual general meeting at Killarney Country Club.

“In terms of the procedure the president is invited to the meeting. Mthethwa was invited, but she decided not to come,” he said.

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