Ramaphosa, Molope slug it out

Johannesburg - Two leading black businessmen - Cyril Ramaphosa and Sam Molope -are involved in a bitter row in what is becoming one of the most acrimonious fight yet to hit black business.

Ramaphosa, a former ANC bigwig and presidential hopeful, and Molope, founder of the liquidated Molope Group, are squaring up in the wake of the group's collapse.

"I'm going to fight Ramaphosa all the way, until I get back what is rightfully mine," Molope declared this week.

"I will not rest until the matter has been sorted out to my satisfaction."

Ramaphosa was an employee and a director of the group.

Molope blames him for liquidating some of the group businesses and selling them to Rebhold, a company in which Ramaphosa is now executive chairman and director.

Ramaphosa claims his shares in Rebhold are tied to his employment contract with Rebhold, and that this was disclosed to the Molope Group.

The Molope businesses were sold for R300 million to Rebhold.

Molope disputes the deal and the valuation of the businesses.

Molope further claims that his shares in the Molope Group and in other companies over which he had control were pledged to a consortium of banks for a loan of R171 million without his knowledge.

As a result, Molope and his attorney said they were bringing criminal proceedings and a civil claim for R150 million against Ramaphosa in his personal capacity and as former chairman and chief executive of the Molope Group.

Ramaphosa, who joined the Molope Group in 1996 as chairman, has denied the allegations.

"Sam Molope was present at the board meetings held on November 22, 1999, January 28, 2000 and May 17, 2000 at which unanimous consent was given by the directors, including Molope, for the disposal of certain of the businesses to Rebhold," he said.

Ramaphosa added that Molope had signed away his own shares as security to the banks.

"The shareholders of LS Molope Holdings (the controlling shareholder of the Molope Group) signed various documents with the banks.

"Remember, this was all done when everything was going well in the company. When things go well, people are not hesitant to sign and agree to proposals that seem like they will advance the interests of the company and its shareholders," he said.

In spite of months of negotiations between Ramaphosa, Molope and their respective representatives, the dispute remains unresolved.

Now attorney Cyril Morolo of CO Morolo & Partners says he intends to bring further action against Ramaphosa. He intends to bring an urgent application to freeze all shares of the Molope Group and other companies being held by the group's creditors, Ramaphosa and other directors.

He also intends to bring an urgent application for disqualification of Ramaphosa and other directors; to institute a civil claim against Ramaphosa for defaming "the good standing name of Molope" as a result of credit claims Molope was facing, to institute private prosecution against any director of the Molope Group if the police fail to act on Molope's complaints regarding the alleged theft of his business, and the fraud involving the bank loans which led to the collapse of the Molope Group. Morolo said a deal had been struck with Ramaphosa to settle the matter amicably, but he had since reneged on it.

"We've been negotiating with Ramaphosa in good faith, but he failed to keep to his promises," said Morolo.

Ramaphosa's Rebhold group and four banks - Nedcor, FBC Fidelity, The Business Bank and Mercantile Bank - now control the Molope Group. Molope insists he was not aware of the loan, which resulted in Molope Group's collapse, or what the money was used for until after the group was sold to Rebhold.

"Ramaphosa and the other directors kept me in the dark and failed to inform me about meetings where such decisions were made. I was robbed," he said.

He said the first time he heard about the take-over of the Molope Group by Rebhold was through Ramaphosa shortly after the deal with Rebhold had been sealed.

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