OPINION: Between your side, the other side and the truth
Opinion / 22 January 2018, 08:00am / Adri Senekal de Wet
JOHANNESBURG - I recently met the controversial entrepreneur, Gary van der Merwe, the owner of Zonnekus Mansion Pty Ltd via his family trust, in Milnerton in the Western Cape. This should ring a bell.
Van der Merwe, now in his mid-fifties, appeared more than 350 times in court on only one of the cases between him and the state, more particular, the SA Revenue Services (Sars) since the early 2000’s.
Van der Merwe made many headlines during his years as businessman and young entrepreneur, all quite controversial. He has been investigated by Sars, the Scorpions, NHI and the CCB over the years, he’s been named and labelled as a ‘fraudster and a high flyer’, relating to alleged tax fraud of which he was found not guilty. The one of 11 counts on which he was convicted, unrelated to Sars, is presently under appeal to a full bench of the Cape Town High Court.
When my estate agent told me “Zonnekus Mansion is in market for $10million (R121.7m)”, I grabbed the opportunity and requested to view the property. Big was my surprise when van der Merwe himself, welcomed us on Tuesday last week, dressed casually in training clothes. When I presented him with my business card, he smiled, and opened his house. He later opened up his heart. There are always two sides of a story, I was told by my gran. She was a wise woman, I’ve learned in later years.
I was back at Zonnekus on Friday last week, not to view the house for an article I intended to do, but to conduct an interview between van der Merwe and Business Report (BR) online reporter Vernon Pillay. We also met his equally controversial daughter, the beautiful Candice van der Merwe, when she popped in to take the dogs for walk on Milnerton beach.
The very same globally respected model Candice van der Merwe that received a gift of R150 million from an admirer not so long ago.
“Tell me your story Gary”. “I’m back, and I’m fighting fit - I want the world to know what lies beneath the shit-list published about me and my family”. Van der Merwe’s entrepreneurial career started at the age of 15. From buying and selling cars, making movies, opening casino’s, operating an aircraft business and buying properties, to an expert in litigation; the latter not by choice, although.
Yes, Van is back, Fiercely so. According to my math’s, he is about to sue “certain officials employed by Sars, as well as members of a firm of attorneys that assisted the liquidators of Zonnekus Mansions” for about R1billion.
Van der Merwe told us that Zonnekus Mansions was placed under final liquidation on 28 October 2014. At the time of liquidation, the major assets of Zonnekus consisted of five immovable properties of considerable value. The Eagles Trust is the sole shareholder in Zonnekus, and van der Merwe is one of the trustees. “The final order contained an interdict against the disposal of Zonnekus’ immovable properties pending the finalization of an action to be instituted by Sars for the determination inter alia of whether Zonnekus was liable for my tax debt”, said van der Merwe. According to him Sars, through it’s attorneys, has already authorized the sale of four of the Zonnekus properties by the liquidators in contempt of the interdict.
“The liquidators were forewarned in writing by the trust’s attorneys that any such sale and transfer of the properties would constitute contempt of the interdict” said van der Merwe.
He further states that “the trustees launched proceedings against the liquidator and Sars, and their respective attorneys requesting an order declaring that they acted in contempt of the final order when they caused the sale and transfer of the properties”.
BR will follow the case between van der Merwe and Sars.
Van der Merwe’s story reminded me of a quote of a good friend. “This is the tip of the iceberg”. My message to my wise grandmother: “I’ve learned in business that there is your side, the other side, and the truth”. Let the truth prevail.
Reality is, when Sars, the liquidator and a major attorney firm unite forces to claim alleged outstanding payments, it’s “hands-up”. You stand to lose your house, your business(es), but more important, your reputation.
Adri Senekal de Wet is the executive editor of Business Report.