The disputed R300-million debt at the centre of Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni’s suspension may be settled in the next few days.
SowetanLIVE has established that a settlement proposal has been sent to Home Affairs minister Hlengiwe Mkhize via the State Attorney and could be signed and settled before next Friday‚ October 6.
The R300-million debt was incurred eight years ago‚ when the department cut ties with Double Ring Trading 222.
The company was appointed in 2006 to supply mobile offices‚ which enabled the department to send vehicles with Internet connection to remote areas allowing it to process identity documents for the public on the spot.
SowetanLIVE has seen the settlement proposal‚ dated September 27 and addressed to Mkhize‚ which indicated that the Home Affairs department owed Double Ring “approximately R500-million”.
The unsigned “settlement agreement” also stipulated that R300-million be settled “on or before 6 October”.
When Double Ring’s former director and CEO‚ Otto Moswane‚ was contacted for comment on Thursday‚ he referred SowetanLIVE to lawyers involved in the liquidation of the company. “This is now a legal matter that’s in the hands of the legal people‚” Moswane said.
Lorenzo Rolo‚ from legal firm Rolo Group‚ appointed by the liquidators of Double Ring‚ declined to comment saying the matter was still before the courts.
“In the circumstances it would be imprudent on our part to comment on the issues that you have requested comment on at this juncture‚” Rolo said.
The tender won by Double Ring involved supplying the department with more than 100 trucks during Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s tenure as Home Affairs minister.
Then director-general Mavuso Msimang said on Thursday: “I do remember Double Ring very clearly‚ as it was a long negotiation of the contract… I can however confirm that we cancelled the contract as we didn’t agree on the charge.”
Apleni‚ who’s fighting for the suspension to be overturned‚ has filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court.
In his 292-page court papers‚ Apleni mentioned Double Ring’s alleged debt and two other disputed deals involving the wealthy Oppenhemier family and one involving Atlantis Travel‚ a company the minister’s son allegedly works for as some of the reasons for his “irrational” suspension.
Apleni stated that he disputed Double Ring liquidators’ claims of R300-million were without basis.
“On 26 May 2017‚ a letter was received by the department from a representative of the Rolo Group which sought to ask for a settlement on the matter. In my view there was no basis for the settlement‚” Apleni stated in court papers.
Apleni also stated that a draft response which rejected the settlement proposal was drafted‚ however the minister refused to endorse it.
He also attached‚ in his court papers‚ Mkhize’s response when asked to sign the drafted reply. The minister wrote “No to this”‚ when asked to sign the response that would have been sent to the Rolo Group via the State Attorney.
Mkhize accused Apleni of being “strategically malicious” in an interview on eNCA on Thursday.
The history of the disputed debt:
For over eight years now‚ Double Ring Trading 222 unsuccessfully tried to get the department to pay the alleged debt which initially stood at R75.6-million in 2009.
Double Ring Trading 222 is accused of billing the department in US dollars at $2‚451 (about R17‚850 back then) per unit of satellite bandwidth‚ which the company claimed was sourced from abroad.
The department alleged that the bandwidth was worth R2‚450 from national signal distributor Sentech‚ disputing the bill as it had allegedly led to a mark-up of more than 700%.
The debt‚ which has been part of a lengthy legal battle‚ allegedly accumulates up to R3-million every month it’s not paid.