MTN?bosses in BMW?dealer row

2013-10-27 14:01

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Executives ‘allowed dealership to sell cars on head office property’

A BMW dealership, which lists three MTN executives as its directors, has been allowed on to MTN’s head office property to sell cars to staff despite the conflict of interest.

An MTN source says the car dealership, Sea Star Motors, was allegedly hosted on MTN property several times in the past three years.

But MTN says this only happened once and insists the directors were not involved in facilitating the dealership’s presence at the head office.

Sea Star Motors lists MTN Group CEO Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN South Africa CEO Zunaid Bulbulia and MTN Group chief human resources and corporate affairs officer Paul Norman as directors. MTN said this week that Bulbulia was not a director of the company any longer.

MTN says that in 2010, a Sanlam Healthcare Management subsidiary, medical aid administrator Eternity Health, invited the dealership to MTN’s offices as part of a wellness day.

The source claims the MTN directors with directorships in Sea Star Motors were involved in facilitating the presence of the car dealership and are now trying to cover this up.

The source says the dealership’s presence at MTN was not related to the wellness day, as claimed by MTN.

Sanlam Healthcare Management said this week it could not confirm if Sea Star Motors was involved in the Eternity wellness day as the staff involved at the time were no longer employed there.

CEO Les Nel said: “We, therefore, cannot categorically state that Sea Star Motors was involved at any of the Eternity wellness days.

“We can offer categorical assurance that Sea Star does not currently participate in any of the Eternity wellness days.”

The source claims Sea Star Motors was at MTN’s head office last year and staff raised the conflict-of-interest issue.

The source says this was even discussed by Dabengwa and Bulbulia via email. Dabengwa had told Bulbulia he should not be seen to be involved in facilitating Sea Star Motors’ presence on MTN property.

In response to City Press’ questions this week, MTN said it was “normal” for car dealerships to showcase their vehicles on the public tarmac outside the MTN building.

“In 2010, Eternity Health, an administrator for the CAMAF medical scheme, which is an MTN medical aid service provider, was one of many companies that participated in a wellness day at MTN.

“Among Eternity’s clients who had an information table for employees was Sea Star Motors. There were no demo cars exhibited, only information pamphlets were distributed.

“It was Eternity Health which brought many of its clients, including Sea Star Motors, to the wellness day.

“None of the company’s directors mentioned were involved in facilitating the dealership’s participation in the wellness day at MTN.

“In fact, on being alerted to their presence, one of the company’s directors placed a call to the dealership to express concern about how their participation could have been perceived.”

MTN Group did not comment on the claim that Dabengwa and Bulbulia had communicated via email about the dealership’s presence at MTN.

This scandal involving senior MTN executives follows that of several other cases that have been reported in the media.

Earlier this month, it emerged that Lily Zondo, MTN South Africa’s head of legal risk management, was to hand herself over to police regarding an investigation into an extortion plot against MTN South Africa’s corporate services executive, Robert Madzonga.

A warrant had been issued for her arrest, but her lawyers arranged for her to hand herself over.

Madzonga was suspended in August over suspicious payments to law firms, but at the time claimed it was his conflict with Zondo that had led to his suspension.

He said Zondo had defamed him in internal company emails by claiming he had benefited from the controversial ICT Indaba sponsorship deal, which former communications minister Dina Pule was implicated in.

Madzonga lodged an internal grievance against Zondo over his claim and has since charged her with defamation.

His suspension followed the resignations of MTN Group’s chief financial officer, Nazir Patel, and the general manager for branded retail, Eleanor Potter. They were allegedly involved in suspicious activities while in the employ of MTN.

MTN has denied that Patel and Potter did anything wrong.

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