Royal pains of the Bakubung

An affidavit filed this week in the Mafikeng High Court by North West Premier Maureen Modiselle has painted a parlous picture of the finances of the Bakubung-ba-Ratheo – the platinum-rich ­community grappling with succession strife within its royal family.

Modiselle is fending off a court challenge against her decision in March to remove Ezekiel Monnakgotla, the Bakubung’s acting chief, from his throne and place the administration of the 15-member Traditional Council under ­advocate Harold Masilo. ­Monnakgotla had chaired the council. The decision was taken after some members of the royal family complained about Monnakgotla’s alleged poor leadership and ­alleged mismanagement of the funds belonging to the 33 000-strong clan that lives in Ledig ­village near the popular Sun City resort.

In her affidavit, which lists ­Monnakgotla and the Traditional Council as applicants, Modiselle made public the findings of a 138-page forensic probe by auditing firm Gobodo Incorporated. It uncovered disturbing details about the finances of the tribe.

The report found that a R10 million payment to the coffers of the tribe could not be “authenticated” and that “there was uncertainty as to what happened to a payment of R4 million” meant for the ­construction of roads, schools and crèches in Ledig.

Among a plethora of findings, Gobodo auditors could not trace the whereabouts of an R11 million donation by platinum explorer ­Wesizwe Platinum.

The auditors also noted the existence of a money market account which no one in authority appeared to know what payments were made into or out of.

Gobodo found that there were no supporting documents for cashed cheques amounting to R180 000. It was discovered that financial record-keeping was inadequate and that there was insufficient ­accountability within the Traditional Council. Gobodo investigators also discovered the tribe’s trust had no institutional structure and no asset register. Interestingly, the auditing firm recommended that prosecutions be considered.

“One cannot read the report of Gobodo without concluding that there is a serious problem of maladministration of the affairs of the tribe,” writes Modiselle in the affidavit.

In the affidavit, the premier ­intimates that her decision to place the Traditional Council under ­administration was partly motivated by “real fear on the part of certain members of the community” that the financial affairs of the tribe were benefiting a few while the majority languished in ­economic hardship.

Modiselle’s assessment of the Bakubung’s finances is in stark contrast to the rosy picture painted by Musa Capital, the Traditional Council’s financial advisers since 2007. Musa said last month that it had tripled the wealth of the tribe and had invested R35 million worth of proceeds in community development and projects.

Musa Capital, headed by US ­citizens William Jimerson and ­Antoine Johnson, also denied ­allegations that the R500 million raised from monitising Bakubung’s 33% stake in Wesizwe Platinum was missing.

The missing R500 million is at the heart of the succession battle between Monnakgotla and his older sister, Margaret Monnakgotla, who claims the majority of royal family members support her ­ascendence to the throne and the ousting of her brother. She was ­also a key backer of Modiselle’s ­decision to appoint an administrator to run the affairs of the Bakubung.

Margaret Monnakgotla and her followers accuse her brother, the Traditional Council and Musa Capital of being behind the ­missing funds.

Musa denies embezzling the tribe’s funds and argues that it has protected the tribe’s wealth.

“None of the community’s ­money is missing. Contrary to some reports, all of the community’s assets are fully accounted for, and the community and Traditional Council are satisfied with the investment structure proposed and implemented by Musa.

“The community is three times wealthier today than it would have been without these structures and investments, which continue to yield returns and have helped to fund infrastructure and other ­community projects,” the private equity firm said in a statement last month.

The monitisation strategy ­involved borrowing R500 million from state-owned lender the ­Industrial Development Corporation and German investment bank Deutsche Bank, and putting up Bakubung’s 144 million shares in Wesizwe Platinum as collateral.

The shares, now worth roughly R200 million and housed in two special-purpose vehicles, could possibly be attached by the lenders if the Bakubung tribe defaults on its debt.

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