Deur Tania Broughton, GroundUp
Four years after a KwaZulu-Natal marketing company was awarded a R102 million contract to deliver election banners and posters to the ANC, it has still not been paid a cent for it.
The ruling party filed appeal after appeal in an attempt to have court orders, that it must pay Ezulweni Investments, set aside.
The ANC’s latest application in the Court of Appeal has now lapsed because it did not submit court documents on time.
In correspondence with Moroka Prokureurs, who act for the ANC, the registrar of the Court of Appeal, CL de Wee, says: “The heads of argument had to be submitted by 28 March 2023. So far we have not received it and the appeal has therefore expired.”
Shafique Sarlie, who represents Ezulweni, says they have now asked the Johannesburg High Court for a warrant for seizure. It is expected to be granted within days.
The warrant will give the sheriff the power to remove all loose items up to the value of R102 465 000 from Luthuli House, the ANC’s head office, and sell them at a public auction. Sarlie says that if the debt cannot be collected in this way, they will start a liquidation process against the party.
“This has not been done before, but their actions are unreasonable. My client is struggling to make ends meet and pay salaries.”
The steps come after two previous court rulings in Ezulweni’s favour. One was already in September 2020 and the other was an appeal that was heard by a full bench of judges in the Johannesburg High Court in June last year.
In their verdict, the three judges say the ANC’s defense is “far-fetched”.
Judge Leicester Adams, who wrote the judgment, says that based on the available evidence, the ANC is liable for payment of the debt based on an oral agreement.
The ANC tried to distance itself from this agreement and argued that the two officials who negotiated with the head of Ezulweni, Renash Ramdas, did not have the power to do so.
The judge said the facts were corroborated by undisputed WhatsApp messages sent between April 29 and May 6, 2019, giving feedback on progress on the project.
On a group called “ANC 2019”, Ramdas continuously gives feedback on the order of the banners and posters. He also shared photos of it, before and after it was installed. He says in one of the messages that 100 teams will put on the material.
Ramdas argues a mr. Mabaso, the ANC’s financial manager, again told a Mr. Nkholise suggested. He was the person responsible for procurement on behalf of the party for the duration of the election campaign.
However, because it amounted to such a large sum, Ezulweni sought assurance from the ANC in March of that year that the contract was indeed valid.
Ramdas says the party provided him with a letter, on ANC letterhead, which was signed by ANC election chief Fikile Mbalula. It was addressed to the ANC’s treasurer-general, Paul Mashatile. In it, Mbalula confirms that “Comrade Lebohang Nkholise has been designated as the signatory for bookings and money for the duration of the election campaign”.
Adams says the letter, “and more importantly” the fact that it was provided to Ezulweni, is not disputed by the ANC. It is also not disputed that Ezulweni sent two invoices to Nkholise in April.
The ANC claims the letter was prepared by Nkholise who “electronically” affixed Mbalula’s signature to it.
“The idea was, Mabaso claims, that the letter would be given to Mbalula for confirmation at some stage. It apparently never happened. This therefore means, according to the version of the ANC, that the order and the content of the letter were never confirmed or approved,” said Judge Adams.
However, the judges say this version is improbable, far-fetched and must be rejected.
Adams further says that it can be said with confidence that the actions of the parties, especially those of the ANC, support the conclusion that there was an agreement and that the ANC’s version does not hold water.
The three judges consequently rejected the ANC’s request for leave to appeal (that he must pay), but did grant special leave to appeal.
Amos Phago, the ANC’s spokesperson, did not respond to messages requesting comment.
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