Businessman ’forgot’ R2.5m was paid into his account after R28m deal, State Capture inquiry hears
Johannesburg – A businessman who was both a director at two companies that did business with South African Airways (SAA) has told the Zondo commission he knew nothing about benefiting from suspicious payments made through his company's bank accounts.
Vuyisile Ndzeku took the stand at the inquiry on Wednesday.
He held directorship roles at both aviation handling company Swissport SA and at JM Aviation, two companies that did business with SAA.
Ndzeku said he had never disclosed to Swissport that he was a director at JM Aviation and denied this could have caused a conflict of interest. Ndzeku founded JM Aviation and two of his daughters worked at the company along with his wife.
He battled to answer questions posed to him by the commission's legal team about the JM Aviation's business operations.
Ndzeku was asked about whether he was ever involved in a ground-handling agreement contract between SAA and Swissport that was negotiated in 2015 and concluded in March 2016.
At the time JM Aviation had a workshops’ contract with Swissport, but Ndzeku denied any knowledge of such an agreement. He claimed he had no decision-making power in the company he founded.
He admitted to being present at a meeting which discussed the ground-handling agreement, but claims he never said anything. In minutes presented to the commission, Ndzeku is quoted as having played a role in pushing for the deal between SAA and Swissport to be signed.
SAA had required that Swissport have a 30% black economic empowerment partner for the agreement to be concluded. Ndzeku admitted he had suggested a businessman, Daluxolo Peter, should be the empowerment partner in the deal.
The evidence leader for the commission, advocate Kate Hofymer, said the timing of the deal was important at the time because when SAA and Swissport signed the agreement on March 15 2016, for a R1 billion ground-handling contact, a serious suspicious payment then flowed from Swissport to JM Aviation and other bank accounts.
Shortly after the deal was signed, on March 28 2016, Swissport made a R28 million payment to JM Aviation, which only had R1 000 in its bank account before the large payment was made.
After this, from JM Aviation's bank account, R20 million was paid to a BEE partner, Daluxolo Peter, by Ndzeku. Ndzeku said he was asked to do so by the CEO of Swissport, Peter Kohl.
Hofymer said even though Ndzeku had denied being involved in the Swissport ground-handling contract negotiations, he received an R2.5 million payment from the deal.
Ndzeku denied this, despite him being shown bank statements which showed that a R2.5 million payment was made into his account.
"I do not know what it is was for and what I did. I would have to know but it has been a long time," Ndzeku said.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked: ’’How could you forget when the money went into your account?’’
Ndzeku insisted that he did not know.
From JM Aviation's bank account, a payment of R2 million was paid into a Kholisi attorney's bank account.
Hofmeyr said payment records showed that this money was used to purchase two cars for SAA's head of procurement, Lester Peter, who had been instrumental in sealing the deal between SAA and Swissport for the ground-handling contract.
Ndzeku denied having any knowledge of JM Aviation's R2 million payments which benefited Peter.
The inquiry continues on Thursday.