Lawyers for the two boat operators accused of price fixing and tender collusion at the Competition Tribunal on Tuesday denied the allegations. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town -  Lawyers for the two boat operators accused of price fixing and tender collusion at the Competition Tribunal on Tuesday denied the allegations and argued that there wasn’t any evidence against their clients.

This was the opening statement from the lawyers representing Ferry Charters and Heritage Charters. The case relates to an investigation conducted by the Competition Commission in 2015 which found that around September22, 2015, five companies, including the accused, met at the Cape Town Fish Market coffee shop where they allegedly discussed the prices they would charge when responding to a tender that would be issued by the Robben Island Museum.

The boat operators provided chartering services to the museum’s clients from the V&A Waterfront to Robben Island and back.

In its opening statement the commissioner told the tribunal that three of the companies had admitted wrongdoing and entered into settlement agreements, whereas Ferry Charters and Heritage Charters had denied the allegations. In June last year the tribunal confirmed that Thembekile Maritime Services (Pty) Ltd paid a penalty of R350000, Silverbuckle Trade 21 CC t/a Yacoob Yacht paid R29171.72 and Nautical Charters paid R422083.87.

Replying to the allegations, the lawyers for the ferry companies told the tribunal that their clients denied that any agreement had been reached at the meeting or that there was any evidence against them.

Zanele Mkubukeli, from the Robben Island Museum, was called to the stand and testified about the ­tender evaluation process. She said she had noticed irregularities in the bids and quotes supplied by the five boat companies. According to commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele, this conduct constituted price fixing and collusive tendering, in contravention of the Competition Act, and therefore in respect of the remaining respondents, the commission was seeking a similar order declaring that the two companies had contravened the act.

Prior to the proceedings, Bonakele said: “Robben Island is an iconic site. The actions of these vessel owners exhibited disdain for this country’s ­history and utter disrespect for the people. Those who show neither remorse nor shame must be considered for criminal prosecution.”

The proceedings continued today.

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