The chief executive officer (CEO) of a company, which is alleged to have lured businesses to cough up R50 000 to register on its database by claiming to be affiliated with the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa, could face fraud charges.
The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), which has also been dragged into the alleged scam, has distanced itself from Enterprise Village, a black-owned company which punts itself as being involved in developing rural areas.
On its website, the company advertises its address as 14 Simmonds Street, Johannesburg.
But CEO Masakhane Ndamase said the company had vacated this office but was set to return as soon it could afford the rent.
City Press has seen an email, sent by Ndamase on February 9, explaining to a number of businesses why they should pay R50 000 to access business opportunities through Enterprise Village.
In the email Ndamase urges businesses to register with its Community Investment SA programme as the company “has been requested by the office of the president, through the NYDA” to encourage businesses to do so.
However, NYDA spokesperson Lerato Gambu has denied that the agency received communication from the presidency relating to a partnership with Enterprise Village.
He said the NYDA had no relations with Enterprise Village.
“We must, however, indicate that we have met once with Enterprise Village representatives. At this meeting they requested going into a partnership with us for their enterprise development programme. We explained that we would not be partnering with them since their programme had no other partners and they did not have funding for it.
“Henceforth, the NYDA does not have any relationship with Enterprise Village,” Gambu said, adding that the agency viewed the alleged association in a serious light and rejected any such association.
“The NYDA wishes to place on record that this is an illegal use of our name and association with our brand. Waseem Carrim, CEO of the NYDA, has instructed our legal and forensics team to investigate the illegal use of our name and, if necessary, the matter will be reported to the police.
“In the meantime, we will communicate through various platforms, including social media, the fact that we do not have any relations with Enterprise Village.”
Gambu urged individuals and businesses that may have paid money to Enterprise Village to come forward.
“Doing so will aid our efforts to get to the bottom of this issue,” he said.
But Ndamase has denied that he is running a scam.
“Those who call our services or approach a scam are mischievous, because if they have valid proof of this, they must report us to law enforcement,” he said.
Ndamase said the company provides market access solutions to emerging businesses by requesting a once-off registration fee, which guarantees them market access.
“We require that they pay the once-off registration fee, which is nonrefundable, but guarantees them the market.”
Ndamase said about 600 construction companies, established by 6 000 young people, had already registered by paying R20 000, while in other cases, the fee was “paid by diverse government institutions, including the NYDA”.
City Press has also seen an email Ndamase sent to a Centurion-based business, which had questioned the R50 000 registration fee, saying it appeared to be a “bribe or fraud”.
In response, Ndamase said his company had raised R1.3 million through a “once-off refundable fee” paid by the 6 000 young people from 12 communities.
“They have never seen the R20 000 as paying a bribe. The money they contributed has enabled our company to create business for various businesses. It is very interesting [that some people] see our conditions of giving companies business as akin to paying a bribe. To us it means we must give you the business without any contribution to the programme, whereas the very poor have made the investment.
“Therefore, if you are not paying the R50 000 registration fee, make a proposal to us regarding how you will contribute to the empowerment of the youth from the 12 communities … failing to do this will then mean goodbye to your company,” he said in the email.