Durban – A controversial “radical economic transformation” business forum that was temporarily interdicted by KwaZulu-Natal Treasury for intimidation and threats to government staff has said it is “flabbergasted” by the “lies” in KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC Belinda Scott’s founding affidavit.
Speaking to African News Agency (ANA) on Wednesday afternoon, the secretary general of the Federation For Radical Economic Transformation (FFRET), Robert Ndlela, said the association would be opposing “everything” Scott said in her affidavit at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
They are expected to reply by 9 November.
“We are flabbergasted as normally you would not expect a person such as an MEC and with stature to tell so many lies. We will be opposing all that she said. They are baseless allegations and we will challenge them through the proper channels,” said Ndlela.
In the interim, they are barred from entering several government buildings in the city and face criminal charges.
Umlazi-based FFRET is an umbrella organisation that has within its ranks the non-profit Delangokubona Business Forum, also based in Umlazi, which has been accused of utilising “mafia tactics” to extort work from established businesses under the guise of empowering emerging black businesses.
FFRET leader, Malusi Zondi, and Delangokubona have both been interdicted.
The incident causing the consternation took place on 6 September, when, according to Scott’s affidavit, about 40 people saying they represented FFRET “stormed the reception area” of Scott’s Natalia Building office looking for KZN’s acting head of health, Dr. Musa Gumede, who was in a meeting with Treasury’s intervention team on the 11th floor.
The intervention team was deployed by province authorities to address serious breaches of the public finance management act within the embattled health department.
Ndlela denied “storming” the reception area of Scott’s office and proceeding to “storm” a conference room on the 11th floor and holding employees hostage. He insisted FFRET members had “negotiated our way in”.
However, Scott’s says in her affidavit that while FFRET members were looking for Gumede, they tried to steal her receptionist’s handbag, swore at the receptionist and tried to force their way through a glass door into Scott’s personal office.
She alleges that they eventually left the reception area after being told Gumede was in a meeting on the 11th floor.
Scott, who said she was "terrified", was evacuated by her security team.
When FFRET members got to the 11th floor, “they screamed, banged tables and climbed on top of the boardroom table”, Scott said in her affidavit.
She said they would not allow anyone to leave the boardroom until their demands were met. They demanded to know who the members of the intervention team in the meeting were and “manhandled” members of the health management team and members of the intervention team.
They also called two intervention team members “Indian dogs” and accused them of manipulating tender processes “to benefit Indian owned companies”.
They also “forcefully demanded” that Dr Gumede reinstate an employee that was moved out of health’s supply chain management. Gumede complied.
FFRET said they would render the province’s health department “ungovernable” if the intervention team returned to the health department or removed employees who had been reinstated to supply chain management.
The entire episode lasted for just under three hours.
But Ndlela claimed: “The police are on record [in Scott’s affidavit] as saying there was no hostage situation”.
He said the meeting with Gumede and the intervention team was “cordial” and that a viral video that had been circulated on social media of the incident was inaccurate as it had been edited.
“We have the correct version of the video, which is why we recorded it ourselves,” said Ndlela.
“We were very clear in our demands – we want procurement opportunities for emerging black businesses,” said Ndlela. The current procurement processes within the department of health excluded black businesses, he said.
“There is a monopoly of some sort there. FFRET should be treated as a partner of choice for government departments,” he said.
African News Agency/ANA