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Law firm denies receiving CR17 millions

2019-08-27 01:20

Johannesburg-based attorney Dexter Selepe dropped everything he was doing last Tuesday, rushed to his nearest FNB branch and requested a December 2018 statement.

He wanted to check whether his law firm, Selepe Attorneys, had received almost R2.7 million from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign.

Selepe had been scheduled to attend to another matter that day in the Pretoria High Court.

But then he received questions from City Press regarding bank statements related to the CR17 campaign funds that were leaked last week, despite a court ruling that such records be sealed.

Selepe promptly cancelled his court engagement, saying: “This is important.”

His bank statement for the period in question showed that no funds from the CR17 FNB account, held by Linkd Environmental Services, were paid to Selepe Attorneys.

It would have been a same-day transaction as Selepe held an account with the same bank.

According to the leaked FNB bank statement of Linkd Environmental Services – one of the CR17 fundraising accounts – a firm named Selepe Attorneys received R2 174 600 on December 19, followed by another payment of R500 000 a few hours later.

In addition, law firm Ngwenya and Zwane Attorneys, based in Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, was paid R500 000 on August 15 2017; another R500 000 on October 4 2017; R300 000 on December 13 2017; and R459 816.78 on September 19 last year.

The payments amount to almost R1.8 million.

What is striking about the transactional records pertaining to both law firms is that these firms were embroiled in separate court cases involving ANC members who had taken legal action against the governing party.

The firms represented these members both during the run-up to Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president at Nasrec in December 2017, and thereafter.

For their respective cases, each firm brought out the big guns to defend its clients – notably, Advocate Dali Mpofu SC and Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, SC, who do not come cheap.

The picture emerging from the CR17 transactions suggests that Ramaphosa’s campaign team funded court battles in which ANC members litigated against the party – a practice the governing party detests and has previously sought to stop by threatening to expel those involved.

There is no evidence available, at least in the public domain, of any other Selepe Attorneys or Ngwenya and Zwane Attorneys elsewhere in the country which provided services to the CR17 campaign.

This narrows the scope down to the legal firms that are publicly known to have handled court cases involving the ANC.

In September 2017, Ngwenya and Zwane Attorneys successfully blocked the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee from taking part in the Nasrec conference after the court declared the structure unlawful.

Three months later, the Nasrec conference was under threat of collapse over 68 votes that were unaccounted for, after Ace Magashule pipped former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu to the post to become ANC secretary-general.

Again, it was Selepe Attorneys which represented 19 disgruntled voting delegates from Limpopo, while more than 40 others from KwaZulu-Natal were represented by Ngwenya and Zwane Attorneys.

According to Selepe, Ngwenya and Zwane Attorneys subsequently appointed his firm as a correspondent in the matter because it was based in Johannesburg.

The case mysteriously vanished as the complainants quietly withdrew without notice, Selepe said, adding that he suspected there could have been some political intervention at play since he was left hanging.

Six months later, in June last year, his firm would be involved in another litigation, pitting the pro-Magashule group in the Free State against those opposed to him.

In this case, his clients sought to nullify a provincial conference held a month earlier.

“I do not have any relationship with the CR17 campaign or Linkd Environmental Services,” said Selepe.

He said he had not been paid for the June 2018 case, adding that he had not even invoiced his clients – so, the money showing in the leaked bank records could not have been his payment.

“It is for Linkd Environmental Services to prove those transactions, not for us to prove their case, but there are other Selepes who are lawyers, so this money could have been for them,” he said.

His ANC clients in the Free State were set to appeal a high court ruling against them at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein last week, but the filing of papers was delayed as some applicants had not signed their submissions or were suddenly unwilling to sign.

Selepe said he was wary of his firm being linked with political campaigns and was making it his priority to clarify matters.

Otherwise, he said, it would create a wrong perception that his firm had business ties with a faction in the ANC, which could tarnish its reputation.

“At the end of it all, it is a political party fighting with itself. Some of us could end up being caught unawares in the crossfire, without knowing how it started or knowing anything about the CR17 situation,” he said.

Questions sent to AC Zwane, of Ngwenya and Zwane Attorneys, went unanswered.

All that Nokuthula Nkuna, a representative of the firm, would say was: “Mr Zwane is not in the office.”

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October 13 2019