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Northern Cape -
All the accused involved in the Trifecta trial on Tuesday proclaimed their innocence when they pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and corruption in the Northern Cape High Court.
The chief executive officer of Trifecta Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Christo Scholtz, the former HOD for the Department of Social Development, Yolanda Botha, ANC Provincial chairman, John Block, and the former MEC for the Department of Social Development, Alvin Botes, denied any involvement in any unlawful practices.
Leases were awarded to the Trifecta group, for offices to the Department of Social Services and the South African Social Security Agency, the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and the Department of Agriculture and Land Reform in the Northern Cape between 2005 and 2009.
Old, rundown buildings were renovated and leased to government departments, including the DuToitspan building in Kimberley, the Keur and Geur building in Douglas, the old Oranje Hotel in Upington, the Van Riebeeck Street building in Springbok and Summerdown Place in Kuruman as well as the Northern Cape Training Centre and the old Kimberlite building.
Scholtz identified a need for providing long term leases for office space in Kimberley and neighbouring towns in the Northern Cape after conducting extensive research.
He decided to involve a black economic partner and in 2005 approached the late Sarel Breda to take control of the business as a managing director, as he knew him (Breda) relatively well and assisted him in small business ventures.
Scholtz indicated that he had only visited Kimberley once prior to Breda’s death in 2009 when he was killed in an aircraft accident.
Block, who is also the director of Chisane Investments, indicated that he had not received any income when the alleged offences were committed (March 2006 until April 2008) as he was not employed by government at the time.
His legal representative, Advocate Salie Joubert SC, pointed out that he earned no salary from any political appointment and had to generate an income.
“As chairman of the ANC in the Province, Block did not earn a salary.”
It was, however, not disputed that improvements to the value of R346 919.74 were made to his guest house in Shimane Street in Upington, with which Breda had agreed to assist.
Block was only re-elected as a member of the Provincial Legislature on October 1 2008, although he did serve as MEC for Roads and Public Works from March 2001 until December 2003 and was later appointed as the MEC for Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism in May 2009, a position in which he still serves.
Joubert added that he received payment of R228 000 for consulting services rendered to the Shosholoza Trust, of which Breda was a trustee, and that this should not be regarded as a form of gratification.
Block obtained a payment of R500 000 from Data Force Trading 53 (Pty) Ltd, another one of Breda’s businesses in April 2009, for the management of his business interests.
Joubert said that Block approached Breda for financial assistance to pay for his legal costs in 2007 as he was not in a position to do so.
An amount of R338 521.25 was given to Duncan and Rothman Attorneys although they were not the attorneys on record and the money was then transferred to Mjila and Partners to settle the Block’s legal bills.
“At the time Block had not met Scholtz and only became acquainted with him after Breda’s death.”
Block also recognised definite business opportunities with Scholtz to develop mining exploration in the Northern Cape.
Trifecta Exploration and Resources (Pty) Ltd was registered as a shelf company in May 2006 with Breda and Scholtz as its directors.
Joubert indicated that 25 ordinary shares were awarded to Block through the Shosholoza Trust while the remainder of the shares were owned by Breda and Scholtz through the Shosholoza and Casee trusts.
“However, the enterprise was not successful and no revenue was earned. Block received R298 151.95 in respect of the mining venture for a limited period, in the form of lawful salary payments between October 2007 and April 2008.”
Block denied that any gratification was paid in order to influence the awarding of any lease agreements to Trifecta Holdings or that he was guilty of money laundering.
Botes, who is the director of Itile Supplies (Pty) Ltd, also stated that he had not been in the employment of government during the time when the alleged offences were committed.
Joubert, who is also his legal representative, stated that he was appointed as a Member of the Provincial Legislature on April 22 2009 and as MEC for Social Development in May 2009.
He denied making misrepresentations to the department or being involved in any collusive bidding.
The prosecution alleges that Trifecta Trading 434 (Pty) Ltd was the only company that submitted a tender for office accommodation for the department at the Van Riebeeck Street building in Springbok.
The bid was cancelled on October 5 2006 due to administrative errors and replaced with a new bid that complied with the required floor size and office rental per month. Botes denied any involvement in drawing up the bid documents.
Botes is also the trustee of Poliyana Property Trust and holds a 10 percent share in Green Marble Investments, a company that is apparently part of the Trifecta group of companies. He claimed that the shares had no value.
Botes also denied that the 39 salary payments paid to him as well as the 10 percent shareholding in the Poliyana Trust constituted a gratification.
He also denied being involved in any collusive bidding in the awarding of office space for the department in Springbok.
Botha’s legal representative, Advocate Albertus Anwar, denied that his client had received any benefits or gratification from Trifecta in return for facilitating lease agreements.
He said the improvements to her home in Jawno Street, Monument Heights, Kimberley, were facilitated through a loan from Trifecta Holdings of which she had repaid over R421 000.
“Botha denies any involvement in the awarding of the leases although she did sign them in her capacity as HOD,” Joubert added.
Scholtz, in his plea explanations, denied that any gratifications were paid over to influence the awarding of tenders and believed that fair rental rates at market related prices were agreed upon.
Scholtz pointed out that any monies paid over were done in the form of salary payments or shares that were handed over in terms of a joint business venture.
He stated that he was not involved in the day-to-day running of the business and was only involved in providing start-up capital and administration.
He appointed Breda as the managing director responsible for identifying property to be acquired, to be involved in the negotiations with tenants as well as maintenance of the buildings.
Scholtz realised that Breda would not be able to make any meaningful financial contributions and that he (Scholtz) would have to fund the entire business.
Breda also became a shareholder of the Shosholoza Trust.
Scholtz stated that the business venture did not make any net profit for the first few years as all money invested went towards capital resources. The funds for the renovation of buildings were obtained through loans from financial institutions as well as through the Casee Trust belonging to Scholtz and his beneficiaries.
He indicated that he only met the former HOD for the Department of Social Services, Yolanda Botha, in 2007/8 after she was introduced to him as a potential black economic empowerment partner.
A dormant company in Trifecta Holdings was used to transfer shares to broaden the BEE base, including a 10 percent shareholding in the family-controlled Shosholoza Trust, to a beneficiary, Angelique Botha, who was nominated by Yolanda Botha.
Scholtz denied being involved in any unlawful conduct or giving any gratification in order to influence the awarding of any tenders.
He stated that renovations done to Botha’s house were processed through a loan schedule while a substantial amount had since been repaid.
He said the R15 000 given to her was made as a donation to the ANC of which he was a staunch supporter and that he was not aware of any personal benefit to Botha.
Scholtz admitted that money was forwarded to Block and Botes although this was in the form of ordinary shares in Trifecta Resources and Exploration and was part of the normal course of business. There was “nothing unlawful” about it.
He denied paying any gratification for the benefit to influence any lease agreements with the Trifecta group and claimed that he only met Botes at Breda’s funeral in 2009.
He indicated that payments were made to Botes as an employee of Trifecta Holdings. - Diamond Fields Advertiser