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When Corinne Ferreira told Elizabeth Tsebe in 2007 that she wanted her as a partner in Mille Net Imports, the domestic worker thought that was the end of her poverty.
After avoiding The Star for months, the mother-of-two and sole breadwinner in her extended family of six finally poured her heart out last week from her hometown of Aluta Park RDP settlement in Mahwelereng, Mokopane, Limpopo.
“She said she wanted to make me a shareholder because she had worked with me for a long time and did not want to give money to other people,” Tsebe said.
She said this was followed by piles of documents Ferreira asked her to sign to make her dream a reality. Tsebe said that a few months after signing the documents, which Ferreira had said were for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, she signed various tender and company documents.
By this time, Ferreira had promised to build her a luxury house, educate her children and look after her, Tsebe said.
Tsebe said her employer of 16 years became unusually kind and generous towards her. She showered her with presents and cash of between R3 000 and R60 000, enrolled her for a computer course and increased her salary from R2 600 to R6 500 within four years.
But all that generosity disappeared in July last year when a former colleague tipped Tsebe off that she was entitled to millions of rand because she had been a co-director and 40 percent shareholder in Mille Net, Ferreira’s multimillion-rand medical-supply company, since 2007.
When Tsebe enquired about the shares, Ferreira became angry and threatening.
The final straw had been when Tsebe refused to sign an affidavit confirming her disputed signature after the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission had rejected Ferreira’s applications for amendments to Mille Net’s share-holding, Tsebe said.
“She said she owed me nothing.”
Tsebe said she wanted Ferreira to pay her the total value of her shares and unpaid director’s salary.
“Corinne must be blacklisted and barred from doing work for the government because she made a lot of money in the name of a black person but does not want to give me my money,” she added.
Ferreira on Tuesday dismissed Tsebe’s assertions as “absolutely not true. All that you are saying and what Lizzy told you is not true.”
Who is Corinne Ferreira?
Described by former and current staff members and business associates as a”go-getter”, Corinne Ferreira started her multimillion-rand business empire from nothing in 1986.
A qualified pharmacist, the 52-year-old Ferreira registered three companies – Hospital Transfer Systems (Pty) Ltd, Unisurge (Pty) Ltd and Orthosurge (Pty) Ltd – before starting Mille Net Imports cc in 1999.
She is credited with building Mille Net into|a multimillion-rand empire.
The company supplied disposable |thermometers to all provincial health departments in the country almost |single-handedly.
Ferreira became one of SA’s paragons of black empowerment when she appointed her domestic worker, Elizabeth Tsebe, as a Mille Net director and a 40 percent shareholder in 2007.
She had a ‘’sweet but assuming’’ personality, and easily became paranoid or suspicious, said former employees and business associates. They described her as a short-tempered|go-getter who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.
A former employee said Ferreira was “very conniving and calculating, if I were to sum it up. She divides and rules.
“She is the kind of person who will turn colleagues against each other in order to be|in power.
‘’My experience with her was fine until|she got paranoid and developed trust issues because she did not know who advised Elizabeth about her shares.”
Another one added: “Corinne is a person you can sit down with and agree about something, and tomorrow she will change and pretend she knows nothing about that.
“She has a lot of tricks, and changes like a chameleon.”
On Tuesday, Ferreira maintained her innocence and dismissed all accusations levelled against her.