World

Gauteng company at centre of PPE tender storm unable to pay staff as bank accounts frozen

Johannesburg – At least one of the 40 Gauteng companies linked to Covid-19 PPE corruption could not pay its employees after its bank account was frozen.

This emerged at the Special Tribunal hearing at the South Gauteng High Court, where the implicated companies were expected to argue why the court’s earlier decision to freeze their bank accounts should not be made final.

On August 21, the Special Tribunal of South Africa was granted an interim order which froze about R38.7m held in several accounts of 40 Gauteng-based contractors who were involved in supplying PPE to the provincial government at the height of the pandemic.

These accounts included those belonging to Ledla Structural Development, Royal Bhaca Projects and Mediwaste, companies at the centre of the unfolding PPE scandal.

Royal Bhaca Projects is owned by Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, who is married to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko. She is on special leave.

The order also interdicted the Government Employee Pension Fund from releasing the pension money and benefits to the former Gauteng Health Department chief financial officer, Mantsu Kabelo Lehloenya, who allegedly signed off irregular PPE contracts worth more than R2bn.

Judge Billy Mothle on Tuesday clarified the interim order was only to the extent of the amounts specified in the order, or any portion thereof which was available in the bank accounts at the time the order was granted.

“In the order, I did not say that the bank must freeze the entire account, the banks were not cited as respondents,” Judge Mothle said.

This came after advocate Mannie Witz, representing respondents four and 38, told the court the 38th respondent’s entire bank account had been frozen.

The bank account belongs to Micheal Gerad Rofail, who is faced with the nightmare of fulfilling his business requirements while having no access to his account.

“We can’t pay salaries Sars (SA Revenue Service), we can’t utilise that bank account because the banks have taken an attitude because it’s the SIU (Special Investigating Unit),” Witz said.

Advocate Paul Kennedy said a paragraph to clarify the order would be added to the rule nisi, which was extended, according to tribunal spokesperson Selby Makgatho.

Meanwhile, Judge Mothle said he found it troubling that some respondents, including Lehloenya, had not filed their answering affidavits to the court.

“People had the whole of September to do it, and we are now in October and people haven’t filed their answering affidavits, and that’s what I found troubling,” he said.

The judge gave the respondents until October 12 to file their answering affidavits.

He added the tribunal could not spend so much time on people who did not comply with the court order.

“We cannot spend so much time because people didn’t comply with the order We can wrap this thing up in November, we shouldn’t play around with time,” Judge Mothle said.

The Special Tribunal was postponed to November 20 and 21 and all the respondents were required to file their heads of argument by November 4.

The Star

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