Infighting unearths incestuous deals

Infighting at the SA Post Office has unearthed incestuous business relationships and conflicts of interest by the chief executive and the chairman of the board.

Khutso Mampeule, the chief executive of the Post Office, and Phuti Tsukudu, his chairman, are in hot water with communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri. Matsepe-Casaburri is angry that Mampeule bypassed board chairman Tsukudu and called a board meeting to discuss selling insurance products through Postbank branches.

The implication of Tsukudu’s appointment to the board of Mutual & Federal this month was on the agenda of the meeting.

Mampeule felt that by being a board member of the two companies, Tsukudu had a conflict of interest.

So certain was Mampeule of Post Sure going ahead that he requested for a professional opinion on Tsukudu’s possible conflict of interest from Nigel Payne, an independent risk and corporate governance consultant.

Payne’s opinion was that a conflict of interest arose.

Strangely enough, the agenda for the extraordinary meeting did not include the insurance business case, which topped the agenda.

But it did include the implications of Tsukudu’s appointment to the board of Mutual & Federal.

This whole matter infuriated Matsepe-Casaburri, who has pointed out that as Tsukudu was a cabinet appointee, she should have been consulted.

The extraordinary board meeting on the insurance deal was also held in an extraordinary manner – telephonically – with Mampeule in Switzerland, where he was attending an International Postal Union meeting.

The minister said it was unclear what the urgency of the matter was. On Tuesday, an irritated Matsepe-Casaburri put the joint venture on hold until her concerns were addressed.

Matsepe-Casaburri said in a letter she had been alerted by Tsukudu that the process of obtaining an insurance partner had not followed the normal protocol of seeking permission from the government. The minister said no business case had been made to her, contrary to a pledge made by Tsukudu.

However, Matsepe-Casaburri was reliably informed that an insurer was already speaking about a definite partnership with the Post Office.

In another case, on December 8 2005, the Post Office paid R89 000 to Tsukudu Associates, a human resource company owned by Tsukudu. Tsukudu at the time was a Post Office non-executive director and chairman of the board’s human resources committee.

But Mampeule is not in the clear himself. His company has a stake in Comair. Mampeule is the chairman of the Lefa Group Holdings, an investment company that holds 13 percent in Thelo Consortium which bought a 16.1 percent stake worth R100 million in Comair in July.

The Comair deal has a hurdle balance that will be reduced if Thelo achieves certain operational targets. This month the Post Office entered into an exclusive logistics contract with Crossroads, which in turn is subcontracted by Skynet logistics company. Skynet has a contract with Comair.

And on December 23 2005, the Post Office paid Thabang Wine Emporium, which is owned by Mampeule, R17 516.40.

Post Office spokesperson Twiggs Xiphu said Thabang Wine Emporium was registered as a once-off vendor, specifically to supply wine and champagne at a discounted rate for the executive committee’s year-end function, and Mampeule declared his interest in the company.

The minister said she had been receiving letters from Post Office staff regarding working relations that had caused numerous resignations.

She also wanted to know about an affidavit made by Mampeule, in which he laid a criminal complaint of corruption against Maanda Manyatshe, his predecessor at the Post Office and now the managing director of MTN .

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Infighting unearths incestuous deals