Watch the Sitholes every Thursday at 17h30 on e.tv
Durban - A two-day “official ANC” pre-election bash at a plush Durban nightspot saw ANC Youth League “heavyweights” accused of racking up an R83 000 bill – before leaving without paying.
The two event planners, Emmanuel Bongumusa Gumede and Themba Dlomo, who insisted that it was an official party soirée, signed off on bills for expensive single-malt scotch and lavish seafood platters on April 5 and 6, but have since evaded settling the tab for nearly a month.
They held court at the Velvet Lounge in Durban’s Florida Road.
The league and ANC leadership have distanced themselves from Gumede and Dlomo, saying the parties had not been authorised by the organisation.
Restaurant owners have now approached the police, after their attempts to get their guests to settle the tab were unsuccessful.
The Sunday Tribune has obtained evidence of an SMS sent by Dlomo which reads: “Wanted to tell u that am hosting ANC youth league party tonight at 7pm @ Velvet Lounge Florid a Road, as my comrade kindly attend.”
The Sunday Tribune has also obtained copies of unpaid bills signed by Gumede that amount to R82 583.35.
The VIPs at the bash, including eThekwini proportional representation councillor Sibongile Nhlapo, spent R24 000 on whisky alone, and almost R10 000 on Champagne.
One of the restaurant’s directors, who has asked not to be named, said the two had approached him on a Friday night.
“They came to me saying they were from the Youth League and wanted to know if I could host a table of 10 on a Friday night, which we obliged.
“At the end of the night, their bill was just over R27 000, and Dlomo paid R8 000 on a credit card, saying they would settle the debt the next evening at the afterparty for their rally.”
The restaurateur said party delegates and members descended en masse the next day.
“The bottom floor was booked out, and they had a R15 000 limit on local liquor and beers, with the VIPs accommodated upstairs. The party ended at 4am, at which point they said that the guy who was supposed to settle the bill, which was over R80 000, had not arrived. They promised to pay the next day, but have evaded us since then,” he said.
“They give the ANC a bad name. They misrepresented themselves, saying they acted on behalf of the party when they didn’t, and now we find ourselves out of pocket.”
Dlomo insisted that he merely facilitated a meeting between the “funder” and the owner of the restaurant.
“The agreement was between them, and not me or the ANCYL.
“I am very concerned about how this Indian (restaurant owner) believes in using us blacks and the ANC,” he said.
He could not be drawn on who the “funder” was.
Gumede could not be reached for comment.
According to public documents, Gumede is the director of four companies in various phases of liquidation. He has close links with controversial convicted entrepreneur, socialite and self-proclaimed prince Sifiso Zulu.
Dlomo has ties with well-known ANC millionaire businessman PG Mavundla of Greytown.
A senior eThekwini league leader expressed no surprise, saying that the two were “serial absconders” from their debts.
“About four weeks ago, the ANC gave one of them money to brand vehicles taking part in various activities.
“The cars were branded, but he never paid the supplier. I am told that the supplier that did the work is up in arms and taking the ANC to task. The ANC is also taking serious action against them,” he said.
“These guys have an affinity for leaving a trail of debt wherever they go,” he added.
League provincial task team convener Nontembeko Boyce distanced herself from Gumede and Dlomo.
“Mr Gumede is unknown to me, and Mr Dlomo I know to be a person who is not holding any leadership position in the ANCYL,” she said. She said the league had not sanctioned the event.
“The ANCYL in KwaZulu-Natal had no activity on the said date, nor at the venue.
“As a matter of fact, on this day we were with the ANC at its Siyanqoba Rally in iMfolozi. The leadership in the province has no knowledge of the alleged event.”
She said the story was an effort to tarnish the reputation of the party in the wake of its election victory.
“I believe it is designed to tarnish us following our landslide victory in the 2014 election.
“The proprietor was going to pursue the people he made agreements with, check with the organisation if they were aware of the incident, and instead went to the papers.
“This, in our minds, reflects the lengths to which some people are prepared to go in reflecting their unhappiness with the choice of the majority of people who voted for the ANC.
“The ANC victory came when some were wishing and praying for our demise, and those people are hell-bent on selling propaganda that the ANC is not the correct organisation.
“The ANCYL will forever defend the ANC, thanks to the millions of our people who confirmed their confidence in the party at the polls,” she said.
ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala baulked at the allegation that the two were operating on behalf of the party.
A well-placed police source, who would not be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed that the investigation into Gumede and Dlomo was already at an advanced stage.
“The suspects are known, and we have managed to trace both of them. They face arrest,” the source said.
He said the docket against the two was “comprehensive”, and it would be difficult for the alleged bilkers to evade responsibility for settling their tab.
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed the incident was the subject of an official investigation.
“We can confirm an incident that occurred where two known people allegedly went into a bar and restaurant in Florida Road with a group of people and ordered food and drinks on two occasions.
“They did not pay and promised to pay the next day. Berea police are investigating a case of failing to pay for boarding, and no arrest has been made at this stage.”