Afcot to be kidding: Gupta man at heart of retrenchments
Tangled web of attachments linked to laying-off of workers at company owned by prominent West African
Controversial businessman and Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma is at the centre of yet another scandal. This time he is accused of firing four employees from a company owned by wealthy West African businessman Samuel Dossou-Aworet.
Sharma is known for his links to the Guptas through his former business partner, Salim Essa, also a Gupta associate.
Sharma’s company Afcot Pty (Ltd) was employed as consultants by Wingprop, one of Dossou-Aworet’s companies, in April.
Afcot got the offer to manage Wingprop from Jeanne Ngoleine Ossouka, a Gabon consul general to Lebanon. Ossouka also acts as a managing director of Wingprop in South Africa.
A letter seen by Times Select, from Wingprop, dated April 10 2018, signed by Ossouka, introduced Sharma’s company to the staff.“The consultants will be evaluating the entire business of Wingprop to identify opportunities, to save costs and increase revenues. The appointment is for a period of three months, and it is expected that all employees of Wingprop will co-operate fully with the requests and direction of the consultants,” said Ossouka.
Just a month later the company driver, credit controller, company plumber, and a finance worker lost their jobs. The chief operations officer and another employee resigned.
The workers took the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Their complaint was that their contracts were terminated “with or without notice”.
The matter was heard last Monday but was postponed for a later date for arbitration. It is also alleged that the company wanted to give the workers a two-week salary before parting ways with them.
Sharma confirmed to Times Select that the workers were dismissed and have exercised their rights by taking the company to the CCMA – but he insists they “have not done anything wrong”.“We’ve done things according to the labour law, but I tell [you] there’s more to this than what you’ve heard,” said Sharma, promising to provide more documents pertaining to allegations of fraud within the company.
“There’s a criminal case that has been opened,” said Sharma.
One employee said they wouldn’t allow Sharma and his people to do this to them. “We can’t be treated like this, we have families, we can’t be dismissed as if we were illegally employed by this company,” said the employee. “Afcot is no labour expert, but they came and retrenched us. There was no reason and no explanation why.”The company employs more than 30 workers, who manage and look after all properties owned by Dossou-Aworet in South Africa.
In Johannesburg they run the popular Piccadilly building in Yeoville, High Point in Hillbrow, the Old Johannesburg Sun, and a building in Fox Street.
In Durban the company has the Salmon Grove building, and in Cape Town near the V&A Waterfront they have the Foundry Building, which also serves as local headquarters for Dossou-Aworet’s multinational oil company, Petrolin.
Dosso-Aworet also has residential properties in Durban’s upmarket suburbs, including Umhlanga Rocks, and one house in Hyde Park, Johannesburg. He also has a penthouse in Cape Town.According to staff members Dossou-Aworet is not aware of the restructuring.
“He’s in the dark that some of his staff members have been fired. This is a hostile takeover by Iqbal Sharma and his friends. He’s getting rid of those who are not liked by Ossouka,” said a staff member who works at one of the buildings.
Another employee alleges that Dossou-Awuret was warned not to employ Sharma’s company.
Questions were sent to Dossou-Aworet and Ossouka last week but they had not replied by the time of going online.
Ismail Lockhat from Afcot said they have been appointed to turn around the company. He said Afcot have opened a criminal case against a number of people in the company who are accused of corruption.
“Wingprop has lost money and the main reason for these losses has been due to mismanagement and corruption.
“Afcot uncovered numerous transgressions that needed to be addressed by senior managers entrusted to run the company. Some of the people implicated have already left the company and others are going through disciplinary processes chaired by an advocate,” he said.
He pointed out that there is an active investigation underway. “We would advise that you verify the bona fides of your sources and their motivation,” said Lockhat.
“We have been advised not to disclose any evidence into the public domain as it most certainly will prejudice the case.”