'Arms' lady probed over loan

2004-11-07 08:33

Nelspruit - Award-winning entrepreneur and South Africa's only female armaments manufacturer, Nora Fakude-Nkuna, is being investigated over a R2.8m loan from the Mpumalanga government.

Fakude-Nkuna is a director of the Mpumalanga Economic Empowerment Corporation (MEEC), which allegedly granted a low-interest loan for a vehicle dealership to one of her close relatives.

The Interstate Clearing dealership lists its business address as Shop 55 in the Promenade Centre in Nelspruit, which is an optometrist's practice belonging to Fakude-Nkuna's daughter, Dr Moriameng Modipane.

Interstate Clearing's actual business address is in Phalaborwa in neighbouring Limpopo, and is therefore ineligible for financial assistance from the MEEC or other Mpumalanga government agency.

Independent forensic auditors PriceWaterhouseCooper began probing the deal this week after MEEC whistleblowers presented investigators with documents relating to the loan.

Documents, allegedly implicating senior provincial cabinet members and development agency CEOs, were presented to Mpumalanga premier Thabang Makwetla at a special one-on-one briefing two weeks ago.

Makwetla's office refused to either confirm or deny the meeting, stating on Friday that the matter was "too sensitive".

Copies from the loan dossier leaked to City Press indicate that Fakude-Nkuna applied for a R2.8m MEEC loan in her own name on August 7 last year.

Her signed eight-page application, bearing Fakude-Nkuna's business fax ID on the top, claims that she is the 100% shareholder in Interstate Clearing. She also signed an 11-page agreement accepting the money from the MEEC on September 25 last year.

Fakude-Nkuna's loan application does not reveal her credit record.

MEEC records do indicate that she recused herself from the parastatal's credit board meeting that approved the loan after telling fellow board members that Interstate was owned by her close relatives.

Investigators are probing why the Limpopo dealership was granted such as large loan from Mpumalanga coffers and why part of the money was transferred before the necessary agreements were signed, and are.

In addition, they are questioning a series of earlier apparent attempts by the MEEC to issue loan guarantees on behalf of Interstate Clearing in violation of the Public Finance Management Act.

Interstate Clearing's bankers and corporate backers both refused to issue guarantees.

MEEC general manager Abraham Masango, who personally handled the Fakude-Nkuna loan application, refused to comment on Saturday.

MEEC board chairperson Sylvester Sithole, who approved the loan, also declined to comment, referring all questions to Masango and MEEC chief executive Ernest Khosa, who was unavailable for comment, but is on record confirming the probe.