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Plot thickens around BBC’s missing millions

Dec 03 2017 08:27
Dewald Van Rensburg and Lesetja Malope

Johannesburg - The Black Business Council (BBC) and the Airports Company SA (Acsa) still have conflicting versions of how a R5 million donation to the business lobby seemingly disappeared.

In a statement on Friday, Acsa said the donation had been brokered by BBC president Danisa Baloyi and that her office specifically instructed that the money be paid to Merit Energy, an intermediary.

Other BBC officials were apparently unaware of this and approached Acsa for a donation in August, only to be told that they had already been sponsored generously just a few months earlier.

Last week, City Press reported on how the Acsa donation had gone missing and how fundraiser Dominic Ntsele was being pursued for this cash by the BBC.

    The BBC has, however, pressed criminal charges against both Ntsele and Merit Energy, which received the cash from Acsa on the BBC’s behalf, said BBC secretary-general George Sebulela.

    Acsa claims it was explicitly instructed to pay the money to Merit Energy in a “formal written request ... by the BBC president to the CEO of Airports Company dated March 29 2017”.

    Ntsele had nothing to do with the transaction, but was the one who introduced Baloyi to Acsa CEO Bongani Maseko, the company said. The money was meant to fund the BBC’s transformation lobbying programme.

    According to Acsa, Baloyi’s letter states: “The BBC’s president’s office has appointed Merit Energy to help facilitate the implementation of the campaign. Merit Energy will bill Acsa as discussed.”

    At the same time, Baloyi’s colleague, Sebulela, told City Press that there “was no relationship between Merit Energy and the BBC”.

    Merit Energy is owned by veteran Cape Town businesswoman Hawa Bibi Khan.

    Attempts to contact Khan this week were unsuccessful, but Sebulela said that she was not a member of the BBC.

    She has accompanied Baloyi on trips to represent local business, as evidenced by a photo featuring the two women, tweeted in March by the Turkish ambassador.

    She also appears alongside Baloyi on the programme of a German women’s business event, taking place this month.

    According to Sebulela, “investigations are ongoing to determine Merit’s involvement”.

    Regarding Ntsele’s involvement in fundraising for the BBC, Sebulela said: “It seems he had a mandate for which the final details were to be finalised in a written agreement.”

    Further complicating things, Ntsele told City Press last week that it was all his fault as he accidentally instructed Merit Energy to pay the money to a different client of his.

    Acsa said Ntsele had been the one to introduce Baloyi to Maseko, with whom he has a longstanding relationship.

    “Mr Ntsele cannot be considered to have ‘brokered’ any transaction or sponsorship and, as far as Acsa is aware, was not operating on a commission basis.”

    Following City Press’ report last week, on Wednesday the BBC said that an internal investigation into the missing Acsa money was taken over by the so-called BBC Stalwarts, a structure comprising veteran council members.

    A source intimately familiar with the BBC’s affairs said this donation would easily have been the organisation’s largest source of income for the year.

    The source added that it was astonishing that Acsa would pay R5 million to an account without being sure where that money would end up. “My sense is that Acsa is complicit. How do you pay R5 million and not know where it is going? It is suspicious.”

    Acsa said on Friday that it would consider pressing charges. “Acsa has written a letter to the BBC for updates on the investigation by the BBC into any alleged impropriety in the transfer of these funds ... Failing which, the company will be laying criminal charges if any wrongdoing is uncovered.”

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    acsa  |  bbc  |  danisa baloyi  |  corruption  |  donations
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