Brand SA: Former trustees slam Makhubela over ‘defamatory’ allegations

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Brand South Africa. Logo: Supplied
Brand South Africa. Logo: Supplied

Former Brand SA board of trustees have hit back at former chief executive officer (CEO) Kingsley Makhubela and accused him of harming the entity.

In a statement released on Saturday, the former trustees detailed how Makhubela, whose contract came to an end in July, had allegedly brought harm to Brand SA.

They were reacting after Makhubela’s dossier titled Corruption Hurts All of Us: Anatomy of Corruption at Brand SA, which contained allegations of abuse of power, corruption, maladministration, and lack of proper governance, surfaced in the public domain.

Makhubela’s dossier alleged that the former trustees and senior executives were behind the collapse of Brand SA.

Read: The collapse of Brand SA: Former CEO gives damning account of corruption, abouse of power

The former trustees said they would like “to set the record straight” and rejected the allegations made by Makhubela as “false and inaccurate statements”.

They said the former board was composed of credible, respected, and patriotic South Africans from the public and private sectors.

These included Khanyisile Kweyama; Babalwa Ngonyama (resigned in April 2019); Thembi Kunene-Msimang; Mpho Makwana; Kuseni Dlamini; Janine Hills; Lehlohonolo Bonoko; Muditambi Ravele; Given Refilwe Sibiya; Rashid Lombard; Stavros Nicolaou; Mzimkulu Malunga and Geoffrey Rothschild.

The former trustees said they understood and appreciated that the state capture commission, chaired by the Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, would be investigating Makhubela’s allegations.

They said they were committed to providing the commission with the “correct facts” to demonstrate and challenge “Makhubela’s false, vexatious, defamatory, and offensive” allegations.

“It is not possible to challenge all the allegations in his document and this will be done in the appropriate forum,” they said.

“The former board has no intention of attempting to gag Makhubela, but he cannot make unfounded, unsupported and defamatory allegations based on hearsay and conjecture in respect of allegations which have previously been investigated and it was concluded that there was no wrongfulness by the former board.”

“The former trustees are encouraged that the Zondo commission will have an opportunity to consider the veracity of these allegations (although at an unnecessary further cost to the taxpayer) and are supportive that anyone with credible and valuable information should report it to the relevant authorities.”

They said they were engaging with their legal representatives to consider instituting legal proceedings against Makhubela in response to his “false, disparaging, and defamatory allegations and the reputational harm suffered by them”.

Read: Brand SA 'tried to silence CEO Makhubela with handshake deal' to cover up graft allegations

They also welcomed other investigations into his allegations.

THE FALL-OUT

The former trustees said at various stages in 2018, they received, through Brand SA’s whistleblowing and internal reporting mechanisms, several serious allegations against Makhubela.

These included claims of gross misconduct, sexual harassment, and his failure to disclose his relationship with a family member that was contracted with Brand SA.

An investigation was conducted in relation to five charges against Makhubela who was suspended in April 2018.

The former trustees said during his suspension, Makhubela unlawfully contacted staff in the organisation, threatened and bullied staff, unlawfully obtained confidential company documents with the sole purpose of advancing an agenda to bring the organisation into disrepute and to make unsubstantiated and defamatory statements against the former board.

“Many staff at the time reported to the acting CEO, management, and various board members that he threatened to, among other things, ‘sort them out’ when his suspension was lifted.”

They said this information was provided to forensic investigators.

“He has remained true to his word in continuing his unsubstantiated attack against the organisation and former board with these vexatious and untrue allegations,” the former trustees added.

They said Makhubela’s disciplinary hearing was held at various times in 2018 and 2019, and was presided over by among others, an independent presiding officer, who is an advocate and a highly respected member of the Johannesburg Bar Council.

Makhubela was found guilty on two grave charges against him on July 17 2019.

They said the presiding officer recommended that a dismissal was an appropriate sanction for his gross misconduct.

In relation to the presiding officer’s findings, they said the disciplinary hearing report stated that Makhubela was found guilty of having failed “to act in the best interests of Brand SA” and had failed to “disclose his relationship with Sgwili Gumede (his brother-in-law), during which a R2 million contract was awarded by Brand SA to Mr Gumede’s company”.

They said in the context of Makhubela’s “untested and unfounded allegations”, it was important to quote a further paragraph from the report, which stated that Makhubela “conveyed employees and trustees as conniving and corrupt” and that he “did so without presenting evidence in the public domain to support these statements”.

CCMA

Makhubela went to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to challenge his suspension, where he lost.

“If he truly believed in his innocence, he would have pursued an application to the labour court. He conveniently failed to do so choosing to use the media and the public forum to advance his agenda with personal and unfounded attacks,” the former trustees said.

They said Makhubela’s behaviour had repeatedly demonstrated that he had no respect for the rule of law or well-defined legal processes.

They were reacting after Makhubela’s dossier titled Corruption Hurts All of Us: Anatomy of Corruption at Brand SA, which contained allegations of abuse of power, corruption, maladministration, and lack of proper governance, surfaced in the public domain

“Time and time again, when a decision, ruling or process did not go in Makhubela’s favour, instead of facing up to his serious gross misconduct, including the failure to act in the best interest of the organisation and his lack of accountability, he prefers to embark on a tirade, calling everyone from advocates to CCMA commissioners, ministers and deputy ministers, dishonest, corrupt and/or inept,” they said.

“What is both perplexing and disturbing to the former board is that Makhubela has been quick to indicate to anyone who has given him a hearing and/or platform that corruption has been perpetrated at Brand SA; however, he has never demonstrated the same alacrity in previously reporting these allegations to the South African Police Service or any prosecuting authority to investigate.

“The former board is of the view that Makhubela’s conduct is an attempt to conceal his own misconduct and bullying… Could it be that he has no evidence and that the allegations against the former board …[and others]…have been concocted to conceal his own unlawful actions, misconduct, bullying and ineptitude? These allegations have been reported to, among others, the line minister for Brand SA,

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, who has asked the new board to investigate Makhubela’s allegations. The former board supports any additional measures, in addition to the previous two investigations, that test the veracity of Makhubela’s allegations.”

They said Makhubela’s allegations have been tested twice, through two independent investigations, but on both occasions no wrongdoing was found.

“That was not the worst of it. The key mandate of Brand SA is to protect and enhance our country’s international brand and reputation to attract foreign direct investment, particularly at a time when our economy is struggling. In the face of the seriousness of his misconduct he still dared to lobby for all the charges that he was found guilty of to be dismissed, and for him to be re-appointed for a further five years in the same organisation.”

SERIOUS QUESTIONS FOR MAKHUBELA

In the final analysis, the former trustees said Makhubela needed to answer some extremely basic questions, which included among others:

• Why he had not laid charges or provided evidence to the relevant prosecuting authorities for almost three years that he had been claiming corruption at Brand SA?;

• Why two independent investigations that were previously conducted into his allegations never found corruption or wrongdoing despite his claims?; and

• Why he lobbied Mthembu to not provide concurrence to his dismissal?

“Makhubela should reveal how he came about countless illegally obtained board minutes and other confidential documents of the board, while being on suspension for 27 months. He should disclose who was unlawfully obtaining these documents for him. His conduct has jeopardised the operations of Brand SA and worsened South Africa’s investment prospects.

Even now that he is no longer employed by the organisation, the former trustees believe he continues to receive leaked documents, thereby further jeopardising the operations of Brand SA and further damaging the image and reputation of the national Brand and the proper governance of the organisation,” they said.


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Msindisi Fengu 

Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
msindisi.fengu@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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