Nafhold wields the axe

2011-03-05 08:45

Sonyosi Skhosana, the deputy president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and ­Industry (Nafcoc), has been expelled from the Nafcoc Investment Trust for allegedly helping set up an ­unauthorised bank account on behalf of the trust.

A top law firm representing the trust and Nafhold, an investment arm of Nafcoc and a beneficiary of the trust, wrote a letter to Skhosana, a trustee, questioning him about the account.

According to the letter, which is in City Press’s possession, dated February 11 2011, from Werksmans Attorneys, the bank account opened at Ubank was intended to receive the trust’s dividends arising from a 25% stake it holds in Tsogo Investment Holding Company.

The stake is estimated to be worth R1.5 billion.

The lawyers said the agreement between the trust and Tsogo that preceded the opening of the contested bank account was invalid as there was no trustees’ meeting to “discuss or authorise” such a step.

“The person or persons who opened such a bank account and/or purported to conclude such agreement on behalf of the trust acted unlawfully and without any authority to represent or bind the trust,” the letter reads.

Ubank spokesperson Patty Seetharam confirmed that the bank had several transactional accounts with Nafcoc.

“With that said, the code of banking practice which governs the conduct of our business does not permit us to divulge information about our customers,” said Seetharam.

“Should you require further information regarding the said accounts, please direct them directly to the various parties of Nafcoc,” she said.

Sources privy to the matter revealed that Skhosana was fired as the trustee of Nafcoc Investment Trust by Joe Hlongwane, chairperson of both the trust and Nafhold.

Their version is backed by Hlongwane’s letter, dated February 24 2011, which asked Skhosana to step down.

“We hereby call upon you to tender your written resignation as a trustee of the trust within seven days of receipt of this notice,” the letter read.

There were also unconfirmed reports that Skhosana was removed from the trust and Nafhold board by Hlongwane, along with Nafcoc president Lawrence Mavundla, Nafcoc first vice-president Churchill Mrasi, general secretary Gilbert Mosena, treasurer Buti Letsoela and chairperson of the Nafcoc Council, DSD ­Makhanda, for their alleged role in the bank account matter.

Werksmans’ Peter Steyn this week refused to comment. “This matter is confidential and I don’t know how you managed to get hold of those documents,” he said.

A woman who answered Hlongwane’s mobile phone but declined to give her name said he was ill and unable to speak to the media.

Nafhold chief executive Michael Leaf did not respond to voice messages and cellphone text messages sent by City Press to him regarding the matter. Attempts to get hold of Skhosana failed but Nafcoc head office referred City Press to Mavundla and Mosena for inquiries. But their phones were off.

Insiders said the dismissal of the Nafcoc directors and trustees was proof that the relationship between Nafcoc and Nafhold had turned sour.

Mavundla last week mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge at the South Gauteng High Court with the aim of interdicting Nafhold from receiving funds from the trust, which in turn receives dividends from Tsogo, the company that owns hotel resorts and casinos.

Nafhold sources said Tsogo was about to release dividends worth R1.1 million to each of Nafcoc’s 16 constituencies.

Nafhold and the Mavundla leadership enjoyed a healthy relationship when they controversially toppled the then Nafcoc president, Buhle Mthethwa, in 2009.

However, things soured after a two-year R10 million budget Nafhold allocated to Nafcoc was exhausted before the end of the first year.

Signs of a cash flow crisis appeared when Nafcoc fired its chief executive, Robert Mhlambi, last August and in January this year retrenched three senior officials after they refused to have their salaries cut by half.

Nafcoc communications manager Tumi Rhubasana resigned in the same month for the same reason.

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