State capture inquiry exposes R2.5m land purchase that never was

26 August 2020 - 21:30 By Mawande AmaShabalala
Advocate Kate Hofmeyr on Wednesday lifted the lid on a land purchase agreement that never was.
Advocate Kate Hofmeyr on Wednesday lifted the lid on a land purchase agreement that never was.
Image: Gallo Images / Netwerk 24 / Felix Dlangamandla

Is it possible for one to pay R2.5m towards the purchase of land without a signed agreement with the seller?

This might seem impossible, but businessman Vuyisile Ndzeku, who appeared before the state capture commission of inquiry on Wednesday, claimed to have done it - except it was revealed to have been “a fraud”.

Ndzeku stands accused of having colluded with former SAA Technical (SAAT) procurement boss Nontsasa Memela in forging an affidavit and a land purchase agreement that never existed.

This was after Ndzeku claimed to have purchased a piece on land in Ntabankulu in 2016 from Memela’s mother. The land was to expand his cannabis farming business.

Ndzeku at the time was director of JM Aviation, which scored a contract with SAAT, a process in which Memela played a central role.

According to Ndzeku, he met with Memela at a workshop organised by SAAT in 2015. The workshop was with companies that wished to do business with the national carrier.

At the event he claimed he told Memela that he was growing dagga in Lesotho and Swaziland, and wished to do same in the Eastern Cape.

It was at this point, he said, that Memela told Ndzeku that her mother owned a piece of land that would be suitable for this. It was not far from the Umzimvubu River. She then introduced him to her mother.

He said he then went to the Eastern Cape to meet with Memela’s mother. Also present at that meeting, he said, was the chief of the village, Forty-Man Sigcau, with his traditional council.

Ndzeku said he agreed to buy the land and processed a R2.5m payment through a lawyer, Lindelwa Mbanjwa, who happens to be Memela’s personal legal representative.

But Ndzeku’s entire version of events was cut to shreds by commission evidence leader advocate Kate Hofmeyr.

This was after it was revealed to the commission that the sale agreement for the land purportedly signed four years ago only came into existence last year.

Not only that, but the affidavit that was attached to the agreement - with a police stamp - was also “forged” in 2019, as per submissions from the station commander of the Saps station in Mount Frere, where it was allegedly stamped.

As if this was not enough, chief Sigcau filed an affidavit to the commission denying ever meeting Ndzeku.

Furthermore, a handwriting expert for the commission concluded that a signature on the agreement and the affidavit purported to be of Memela’s mother was in fact “fake”.

Faced with these cold facts, a helpless Ndzeku was forced to admit that he aided a fraudulent activity, pouring cold water in his earlier version when he had insisted that all was above board.

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The commission was able to prove that the R2.5m payment purported to have been for buying land by Ndzeku was in fact a kickback for Memela to channel the funds towards a purchase of her house in Bedfordview, Johannesburg.

Asked when he became aware that the affidavit was fake, Ndzeku continued digging himself into a hole.

“I picked up when Ms Hofmeyr was asking her [Memela]. She said it was just an error,” said Ndzeku.

Memela appeared at the commission earlier this year.

Commission chairperson Raymond Zondo and Hofmeyr told him that this was never ventilated during Memela’s appearance at the commission.

Zondo added: “It appears that this affidavit was forged. Do you accept?”

Ndzeku responded: “Yes.”

Hofmeyr chipped in: “If the affidavit was forged in 2019, it’s not clear how you signed the agreement in 2015. Did you not sign in 2019?”

“I signed it in 2019,” Ndzeku conceded, before Hofmeyr hammered the final nail in the coffin pointing out that “this whole agreement is a fraud”.

“Do you accept?” she asked.

Ndzeku replied: “I accept.”

He was then asked: “Why did you take part in fraud?”

He claimed ignorance, saying he “did not know it was a fraud”.

“I did not know I was committing a crime,” he said.

Ndzeku's testimony has come to a close. The commission is expected to sit again on unrelated matters on Thursday.