File picture: IANS
File picture: IANS

Black businesswoman accuses mogul of using her documents to win Covid-19 contracts

By Piet Mahasha Rampedi Time of article published Sep 13, 2020

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Johannesburg - An Eastern Cape businesswoman has accused construction mogul Willie Greeff of “misrepresentation, fraud and fronting” after he allegedly used her company’s details to score multimillion-rand Covid-19 contracts from the provincial Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

Zandi Tyibilika says Greeff listed her company, Skhothahla Construction and Investments, as one of the mandatory 30% small, medium and micro enterprise (SME) subcontractors as a ploy to qualify for a R35-million contract before dumping her.

The Port Elizabeth-based businesswoman has laid a complaint with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and taken legal action against Greeff.

The Eastern Cape government awarded Greeff’s company, Willie Greeff Trust (WGT), an emergency contract to refurbish Covid-19 beds at Dora Nginza Hospital in Zwide Township, in Port Elizabeth, in June.

According to the pre-qualification criteria set out in the department’s bid documents, potential service providers were required to “commit to subcontract a minimum of 30% of work (value) to sub-contractors who are EMEs (exempted micro enterprises) or QSEs (qualifying small enterprises), which are either 51% or 100% black-owned and based in the Eastern Cape”.

In his bid documents seen by the Sunday Independent, Greeff listed Skhothahla Construction and Nyelezi Trading, in which his son is a director, under a section which required bidders to confirm “intention to employ” subcontractors “for work in this project”.

The bid adjudication reports show that WGT scored 80 points for pricing and eight points for B-BBEE by having a “valid” level 5 “B-BBEE certificate”.

In a letter to Greeff, who is the chairperson of the Willie Greeff Trust, Tyibilika accused him of reneging on their subcontract agreement reached when he approached her in May.

“In terms of the agreement, which is partly oral and partly written, you indicated that you would incorporate and list my company in your tender submission as a subcontractor to enable your firm to meet the tender compliance requirements (30% of work allocated to SMMEs).

“Upon appointment, you would issue our firm with the following trades to execute as part of our subcontracting work, general renovations and plumbing. You have however elected to breach the terms of our agreement and you have proceeded to executive the work yourself,” Tyibilika said in the letter dated July 13, 2020.

“I hereby demand that you honour the terms of our agreement within 5 working days of receipt of this notice or pay damages equivalent to the work/trades we would have executed. Failure to comply with our demand will result in the issuing of summons to interdict the works.”

Tyibilika expressed her “disappointment” in a follow up letter, accusing Greeff of having “used me and my company as a front, like most white companies do”.

In his response, sent through his lawyer, Gerald Friedman, Greeff denied any wrongdoing, saying Tyibilika’s “attitude and allegations” were “defamatory”.

In his response, sent through his lawyer, Gerald Friedman, Greeff denied any wrongdoing, saying Tyibilika’s “attitude and allegations” were “defamatory”.

Friedman said while Skhothahla Construction was listed on a schedule of proposed sub-contractors, “no agreement was concluded” with Greeff.

“Subsequent to our client’s tender having been accepted, there have been a host of demands placed upon our client in regards to the appointment of SMMEs. It has become apparent that you do not qualify as a SMME in the Ward to undertake the works. For that reason, besides the fact that there is no agreement in regards to rates/works etc, our client is not in a position to appoint you.

“The demands placed upon our client have been communicated to its principal, who has indicated that our client must appoint suitable SMMEs, given the dynamic and exigencies that prevail.

“While the situation is regrettable, there is no basis for you to contend that there is an existing agreement and, to threaten legal action and/or interdict proceedings,” Friedman said.

“Accordingly, any interdict proceedings will be opposed and we will ask the court to express its displeasure at your conduct by the issue of a punitive costs order.”

Friedman added that Tyibilika’s claims that Greeff had used her as a front were “disgraceful”.

“The allegations contained in your letter that our client had ‘used me and my company as a front, like most white companies do’, is defamatory and disgraceful. For that reason, our client terminated the meeting. Under no circumstances will our client engage you at any meeting face-to-face, given the disgraceful allegations that you have made and have now committed to writing.

“Our client has in every respect complied with the tender requirements and continues to do so. There is no possibility of fronting and the statement made has resulted in a breakdown of relationship that renders it impossible, in any event, to undertake any work in conjunction with yourselves.

“Our client has no obligation to furnish you with its documentation.”

In a letter to Tyibilika, dated September 2, 2020, the SIU’s chief forensic investigator in the Eastern Cape, Madeleine Schultz, said: “It was established that the matters you reported fall under the Covid proclamation that the president recently signed. Your matters will be investigated under the said proclamation.”

The Eastern Cape Department of Public Works and Infrastructure declined to intervene.

In a letter to Tyibilika’s legal team, Stonga Zani said that while the department had noted allegations of fronting levelled against Greeff, they would not “interfere” with the businessman’s choice of sub-contractors. He said Greeff was under no obligation to work with Tyibilika since he had nominated “two or more EME contenders”.

“Our instructions are that WGT did not represent to the department that your client was the only EME to be sub-contracted during the implementation of the project. The responsibility of the department, in the circumstances, is to ensure that 30% of the work is sub-contracted to EMEs. At this stage, we have been advised that the department is unable to interfere with WGT’s choice of sub-contractors. We note your client’s assertion that the award to WGT ‘constitutes fronting’. The department takes that complaint seriously and will investigate that claim thoroughly.”

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