DISGRACED former ANC communications chief Carl Niehaus still owes the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) Provident Fund a “substantial sum”, after he lied about his sister’s death and abused an expense account, which included hiring a yacht.
This is the latest in a string of reactions to Niehaus’s recent radio interview, in which he claimed he had settled all his debts, estimated at R4.5 million.
Tony Mostert, Saccawu’s curator and lawyer, said that although the Rhema Church paid R90 000 of Niehaus’s R100 000 debt to the union, Niehaus still owed the rest, as well as “significant” interest.
He ran up the debt in 2008 when he bought a business-class ticket to “arrange to fly the body of his dead sister back to South Africa” for burial, according to Mostert.
Mostert employed Niehaus early in the curatorship as a transformation consultant on the recommendation of a high-profile ANC member. He said he needed expertise to make three companies owned by Saccawu Investment Holdings compliant with black economic empowerment requirements.
Among the first things Niehaus did were to insist that his wife be employed as his assistant and ask for a substantial salary advance, because he said he was in financial difficulties after a recent divorce.
Mostert said about a month later he found Niehaus in the boardroom crying. He said he had just received news that his sister had died suddenly in London and said he needed to travel there to bring her body back, but couldn’t because of his financial problems.
Mostert arranged for the company travel agent to provide Niehaus with a return ticket to London.
But the story went awry when, a week later, Niehaus’s then wife Lindy arrived back at work to find flowers on her desk, sent by the directors of one of the companies Niehaus was assisting.
When she asked about them, she was told they were a sympathy gesture for the loss of Niehaus’s sister.
She expressed shock, asking how this was possible when she and Niehaus had left his sister in London in good health the previous night.
When Mostert confronted Niehaus, he broke down and confessed that he had actually travelled to the London on ANC business. He had wanted to take his wife with him, but couldn’t afford to do so.
Mostert relieved him of his duties and told him the matter would be referred to the police.
After about six weeks, Mostert received a call from evangelist Ray McCauley to say the Rhema Church had employed Niehaus and would pay back his debt over a period.
During this period Mostert said he also discovered that Niehaus, after meetings at the Radisson Hotel in Cape Town, had made unjustifiable expense account claims.
Unbeknown to Mostert, he stayed on at the hotel for some days with Lindy and ran up an “astronomical” bill on alcohol and cigars – and the hiring of a yacht.
Asked to comment yesterday, Niehaus’s attorney, Tonny Sauls, said the entire debt to Saccawu had been repaid “many years ago”.
The total debt was R90 000 and was settled “fully and finally” by Niehaus, he said.
Sauls also branded as “ridiculous” Mostert’s claims that Niehaus ran up huge expense accounts and hired a yacht.