Former SAAT official ‘fears divorce’ after Zondo commission grilling

 

Former SAA Technical (SAAT) procurement head Nontsasa Memela said she had received more than R1.5m from her mother as a “donation” towards the deposit of her Bedfordview home.

She made the revelation during her appearance at the state capture commission on Thursday. During her appearance, Memela expressed concern at the painstaking questioning she endured — which she said could strain her marriage.

“My worry now is that I will get a call or find my husband not talking to me, because of these kind of questions … and maybe be handed divorce paper. That’s not my understanding of the commission,” she said.

The commission earlier heard how controversial businessman Vuyo Ndzeku allegedly “captured” SAA officials, including Memela, by paying them millions in exchange for them favouring Swissport and JM Aviation, companies of which he was a director.

 The two companies allegedly scored billions of rand worth of contracts from SAA.

During Ndzeku’s testimony, the inquiry heard that R2.5m he paid to “purchase land” from Memela’s mother ended up financing Memela’s home.

Memela disputed the allegations and maintained her mother had been helping her to acquire property. She said her initial plan was to buy vacant land worth R2.8m in the Eastern Cape — but banks gave her the runaround.

“In 2016 I changed my mind because the land in East London took longer … to come in. That’s when we cancelled and I said, OK, let me use the money for the deposit. Then my mom gave me the R1.5m and the remainder was from a bond,” she said.

The commission, however, questioned why she never returned the remainder of the money after she paid the deposit for her home, if indeed it belonged to her mother in the first place.

“I did not go back and say let me give you a remainder. I just continued paying for certain things that she needed, like I did before the donation … I have always been a breadwinner,” Memela responded.

Evidence leader Kate Hofmeyr revealed that Memela also benefited by more than R862,000 from the initial R2.5m. Hofmeyr said Memela invested more than R250,000.

In her defence, Memela argued that some of the money was used “for her mother’s health”. Her mom had heart problems and had to see specialists, Memela said.

She said a portion of the money was used to renovate her mother’s home.

Asked if she could provide the commission with evidence from her bank statements which the commission had already obtained — showing that, indeed, renovations had been paid from her account — Memela stuttered.

“But chair … but chair …” she said as she grabbed a bottle of water.

Memela told the commission she did not “promise” that her bank statements would reveal that she “swiped” for tiles, cement or any other material for renovating.

Her lawyer jumped to her defence, questioning the relevance of the question.

“The issue here is simple: the receipt of R2.5m which has not been denied,” commission chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, responded, instructing the lawyer to take her seat.

The commission revealed that Memela had entered into two “fake” property sales agreements, which Memela disputed had been fraudulent.

In April 2015, Memela applied for a bond of R1.4m, which was rejected. However, a month later she made an offer to purchase the East London land at R2.8m.

Zondo probed the circumstances in which Memela could commit so much when she had previously been denied for half the amount. Memela said that she knew her mother would certainly give her the money after selling her own property.

“But Mrs Memela, you can’t make a serious offer on the basis of money you don’t have and have no guarantee you’re going to have,”  Zondo said.

Hofmeyr said Memela had acquired properties without the knowledge of her husband — despite being married in community of property. She said this was against the Matrimonial Property Act and the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

“Chair, I am not sure if the commission is trying to cause a dispute between me and my husband. Certain things you don’t discuss … investments, especially in property, has always been my thing,” she said.

By Nonkululeko Njilo -TimesLIVE

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