Businesswoman accuses government officials of stealing Business Trade Fair idea
A businesswoman has implicated two government ministers in a deliberate attempt to hijack her Limpopo Trade Business Fair concept and is now demanding R600 000 to walk away from the deal.
Tsakani Mkhari claims she introduced her concept to the Deputy Minister in the Presidency Thembi Siweya who then directed her to the Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. From there on it filtered down to the Polokwane Municipality.
Mkhari this week told The Sunday Independent that Monday's GEW Conference and Business Matchmaking event is her idea which she pitched to the Polokwane Municipality.
Mkhari said her troubles started when the Municipality’s Moipone Segooa wanted to impose service providers and suppliers on her, something she turned down.
After that, Mkhari and her team were allegedly removed from the project. The standoff followed a budget approval of R1.5 million which the officials allegedly wanted to give a lions share to their prefered ‘service providers’ after the majority of the leg work had been done by Mkhari and her company, Fabcreations.
“One of the initiatives that our company came up with is the Trade Business Fair which was presented to the office of the Deputy Minister Ms Thembi Siweya and her team who then felt that the key stakeholder for the initiative is the Department of Small Business. The Presidency offered to communicate with the Department of Small Business for them to see how they can support, which resulted in me meeting with the Department of Small Business Chief Of Staff Ms Sarah Mukwevo,” she said.
During that meeting, Mukwevo is said to have indicated that they had enquired about the initiative and the department was informed about it. Mukhari said following the meeting, Mukwevu wrote an email requesting the Director-General to action the request.
“She also advised me that when we start working together, the Department can also invite Mass Mart, Telkom etc because they had conversations about Enterprise Supplier development and our initiative speaks to that,” she said.
There was however no communication from the DG since the email. On September 16 she followed up with the DG but he said he was in the Eastern Cape and referred her to his deputy Mzoxolo Maki. The pair arranged a meeting at his office.
“After presenting the initiative, I was asked by Mr Maki what my request was from the department and I said a support letter, Coordination of other related stakeholders such as SEDA and DTI. He asked me how much funding in total would you like for us to assist with. The total was estimated at R7 000 000,” she said.
From that point on, Mkhari proceeded to engage with officials in Limpopo to set the wheels in motion. She said they made presentations to the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA), Limpopo Economic Development Environment and Tourism (LEDET) and Polokwane Municipality.
During those meetings, Mkhari said the dates of November 18-19 were agreed upon as they would form part of the Global Entrepreneur Week and the municipality wanted to use that as part of it.
“Therefore, our initiative would complement the municipality’s plans and a partnership can be formed. We mentioned at the meeting that we have met with the Department of Small Business and they promised to send us a support letter after they mentioned as well that there was an interest from the department,” she said.
Mkhari alleged that from that point on, Polokwane Municipality started communicating with the Department of Small Business to request to launch GEW provincially. Mkhari said the partnership between Fabcreations and Polokwane Municipality would ensure the initiative was run provincially as the municipality had no capacity to run a provincial event.
“However, through our partnership, it can be done where Polokwane Municipality becomes a Host City and Fabcreations runs the two-day conference in terms of planning, coordination, business matchmaking, marketing and production. Fast forward, the municipality and Fabcreations agreed that we need to start planning for the events, identify partners both governmental and private. A formal plenary meeting with different role players from the municipality, Limpopo Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET), Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA), SEDA were invited to the first plenary meeting held at Itsoseng Entrepreneur Center in September,” Mkhari said.
The Fabcreations proposal which the publication has seen had envisaged for the fair to take place in October from the 24-25 but was altered after the municipality indicated it wanted to incorporate it in the Global Entrepreneur Week.
All the role players met every Tuesday for a period of two months leading to November but a week before the event, the relationship between them deteriorated. The venue for the fair was then changed from the initial posters created by her organisation and her company was subsequently removed from all marketing pamphlets relating to the project.
During a meeting with the municipality’s legal team, Mkhari said she was shocked to hear Segooa saying the idea was her’s and Fabreaction had not created it.
“Ms Moipone during a meeting on November 5, insisted that the concept for Trade Business Fair was her concept which she shared with me. That is not true because I'm in possession of minutes of meetings, letters and email correspondence to prove that the concept belongs to Fabcreations,” Mkhari said.
In the lawyer’s letter, Japi Malatji of JK Malatji Attorneys makes reference to the minutes that were taken by a municipal employee where Segooa introduces the Fabcreations team.
“Your attention is drawn to the minutes which were put together by your employee Mr Tisane dated 25 September 2019 which confirms that Ms Moipone introduced our client to Polokwane Municipality and shared the intention to partner with our client. Paragraph5 of the minutes speaks about the presentation made by our client to Polokwane municipality, the roll-out plan and the potential partners spoken to and those still needed to be spoken to and most importantly the working relations between Polokwane Municipality and Fabcreations,” Malatji said in his letter.
On October 11, Segooa is said to have requested a budget break down of R1 million rand from Mkhari for the project. It is said that it was during this period that she said she wanted Mkhari to use her suppliers.
“She said we must break down the R1 million and she was going to use the other R500 000 for other aspects of the project. She then said we must use her suppliers but I refused to do that because we had already commissioned work and it was being done,” she said.
After the fallout, Mkhari sent an invoice to the municipality seeking payment for the work done. To this point, she still has not been paid. Segooa failed to respond to specific questions sent to her regarding the allegations made by Mkhari. Polokwane Municipality spokesperson Thipa Selala refuted the claims. He argued that Polokwane Municipality started celebrating the event in 2014 with a seminar and exhibitions as part of the event. For the past two years, amongst others the activities included the business seminar and a trade fair.
"When Fabcreations approached the municipality with the proposal for a Business Trade Fair to be held in October 2019 it was indicated to them that the municipality will be implementing a similar concept with other partners in November 2019 and if they are interested they could join hands and be part of the event," he said.
Sepals added that the municipality together with other partners could not agree with the Fabcreations proposal since they wanted to charge SMME’s and exhibitors. He also refuted claims that Segooa wanted to impose her preferred suppliers and service providers.
"From one plenary meeting it was made clear that Fabcreations’ interest was on managing the procurement process on behalf of the partners and for government money to be deposited in their company’s account. This is against procurement policy. The relationship soured at this point and the municipality and other partners couldn’t reach an agreement with Fabcreations and also that in the absence of a memorandum of understanding there could be no working relationship," he said.
The Sunday Independent has however seen a Memorandum of Understanding between the company and the municipality.
"The allegation by Fabcreations regarding hijacking of their concept is unfounded and borders on tarnishing the integrity of the event. The onus is upon them to prove such allegations and seek remedial action," he said.