REVEALED | Nelson Mandela Foundation accused of impropriety, ...

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REVEALED | Nelson Mandela Foundation accused of impropriety, abuse, card misuse

And to top it all, a source says the NMF is using the same law firm to investigate the very people who give it work

Investigative journalist
The Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) is embroiled in scandal related to allegations of procurement impropriety and misuse of company credit cards.
HE'D BE TURNING IN HIS GRAVE The Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) is embroiled in scandal related to allegations of procurement impropriety and misuse of company credit cards.
Image: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

The Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) is embroiled in a scandal related to allegations of procurement impropriety, misuse of company credit cards and abuse of power against its CEO Sello Hatang and COO Limpho Monyamane.

The foundation’s chairperson, Prof Njabulo Ndebele, told the Sunday Times last week that law firm Bowman Gilfillan Inc was looking into damning whistle-blower allegations against the two.

The extent of mismanagement, an internal source said, had gone from the foundation paying millions to a “donor”, instead of receiving payment, to using corporate credit cards for personal purchases at fast-food restaurants, bookstores, hardware and sporting goods stores.

Sunday Times Daily has spoken to three people in the foundation, who are employed in junior and senior roles. They corroborated and confirmed the issues raised in the whistle-blowers’ document.

Though Ndebele would not go into the detail about the allegations, the publication understands the list of complaints include, among others:

  •   Creating a toxic working environment and bullying; and
  •   Intimidating staff in the finance department to appoint service providers outside procurement processes.

“We confirm that the Nelson Mandela Foundation (the NMF) is in the process of conducting an investigation to determine the merits of a complaint that was recently received,” Ndebele said.

“The NMF is not at liberty to disclose the particular complaint as the subject matter relates to an ongoing investigation.

“However, the NMF confirms that it is not taking the complaint lightly and is implementing the necessary steps to ascertain the merits of the complaint and (will) respond accordingly.”

Hatang said he would elect not to say anything out of respect for the investigation, while Monyamane did not respond to requests for comment. They are still at work.

We have decided, under the circumstances, to refrain from providing any further information.
Mr Concierge director Kgomotso Molosiwa

The complaint, which Sunday Times Daily has seen, was forwarded to Ndebele in mid-December. It said staff worked under “fear and intimidation on the (sic) daily basis”.

“Foul language used by the CEO and other employees openly on staff, leading to trauma and anxiety. Favouritism by the CEO (allowing those [close] to him to come to work intoxicated and smelling of alcohol, and benefits to their with jobs from partners),” were some of the issues listed in the complaint.

Sunday Times Daily was able to speak to an ex-staffer who corroborated some of the claims.

Ndebele responded to the complaints on December 15, saying the allegations were serious and would be investigated.

In one example, the foundation paid R2m to a donor, Mr Concierge, who contracted the foundation for the use of Nelson Mandela’s rights to put on a recital of his life story during the 2018 annual lecture festivities.

Mr Concierge entered into a four-year deal with the NMF to replace the Chairman’s Dinner, a traditional supper held the day before or after the lecture, with a recital and dinner in 2018. In return, the donor would pay the foundation R200,000, plus 10% of monies raised.

Instead, Sunday Times Daily established the foundation paid the company R2m against an invoice for R4m at the insistence of Monyamane, a source said.

Mr Concierge director Kgomotso Molosiwa said: “We have been informed that there is an ongoing internal process at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It is also our understanding that the board of the Nelson Mandela Foundation will be issuing a statement.

“We have decided, under the circumstances, to refrain from providing any further information.”

Other people have left the foundation either because they have been pushed out or because they could not take the abuse.
Source

In another example, businesswoman Mpho Lecoge was paid R144,900 in 2019 to develop HR policies, but did not deliver. Instead, Bowman did the work for a further R287,500 months later.

Lecoge, who was in direct communication with Monyamane about the work, referred all questions to the foundation.

Hatang and Monyamane are also accused of failing to reconcile their foundation credit cards, making purchases at Chicken Licken, Nandos, Steers, Leroy Merlin and Cycle Lab.

Another internal source with knowledge of issues at the foundation said several staff members had to be hospitalised due to traumatic incidents and toxic relations at work.

“Other people have left the foundation either because they have been pushed out or because they could not take the abuse.

“Even now there is unhappiness with how Professor Ndebele is handling the report because he has essentially brought the same law firm that the foundation itself uses. How is Bowman expected to conduct an impartial investigation when the subjects are people who have given them work there?”

The foundation did not respond to this concern when it was raised in media enquiry, while Bowman’s senior marketing and communications manager Alice Andersson referred all questions to the foundation.

The NMF was established in 1999 when Nelson Mandela, after serving one term as the first democratically elected president of SA, continued with charity work to promote human rights and democracy.

This work covers a range of endeavours, from education, HIV/Aids and rural development to the promotion of reconciliation in SA.