Battle heats up for platinum assets

[] — The acrimonious battle for control of platinum riches belonging to a North West tribe, the Bakubung-Ba-Ratheo, the empowerment partner of Wesizwe Platinum, is deepening.

A court action masterminded by Margaret Monnakgotla, who claims she is acting for the tribe’s royal family, has sucked in four of the country’s top five banks and a stockbroker Afrifocus Securities.

Retail banks Absa, Standard Bank and Nedbank, and investment and private banking firms Investec and Afrifocus have been listed as respondentsa in a legal bid by Margaret Monnakgotla to wrestle the control of the Bakubung’s wealth, trapped in JSE-listed Wesizwe Platinum, from her brother, Ezekiel Monnakgotla.

On Friday Margaret Monnakgotla will apply for an interdict in the Mafikeng High Court to restrain the banks and Afrifocus from taking any instructions regarding the tribe’s assets and monies from anyone other than herself, Advocate M H Masilo or a court.

Masilo, who is listed as the administrator of the Traditional Council of the Bakubung, surfaced following the ousting last month of Ezekiel as the acting chief of the tribe by some royal family members.

Lawyers acting for some of the respondents dispute Margaret Monnakgotla’s authority, saying “the premier is due to hold meetings with interested parties relating to the very issue of authority and representation within the community”.

Last month Ezekiel Monnakgotla, who had been acting chief since 2003, lost a court bid to reinstate himself to the throne after he was thrown out for alleged misconduct by his relatives.

The court application also seeks to prevent Ezekiel Monnakgotla, the council and its influential member, Disele Johannes (DJ) Phologane, from purporting to represent the Bakubung and from conducting the tribe’s affairs.

Margaret Monnakgotla is also attempting to restrain the traditional council, Ezekiel Monnakgotla, Phologane, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) company, Newshelf 925, financial advisers Musa Capital and the firm’s employee and US citizen, Antoine Johnson, from “disposing or encumbering” the assets of the Bakubung.

At the heart of the battle, which has split the royal family, is the sale of 44 million Wesizwe shares held by the Bakubung in the platinum miner through a trust.

In court papers Margaret Monnakgotla claims the shares were sold to Newshelf and she does not know what happened to the proceeds, which are believed to total about R500m.

The royal family’s infighting is also muddied by the involvement of Musa Capital, which was appointed in 2007 by the Bakubung to advise it on a strategy to “monetise” (turn into cash) the tribe’s Wesizwe shares for infrastructure development projects.

In a presentation made in April 2007 to Bakubung’s leaders Musa promised to implement the monetisation plan “while minimising the need and risk to sell any existing shares”. At the time Musa, whose directors are US citizens William Jimerson and Johnson, said it could raise between R300m and R500m from the process and invest it in cash generating non-mining ventures to diversify the tribe’s investment portfolio away from platinum mining.

What has happened since is that 44 million Wesizwe shares have been sold to Newshelf, an SPV of which Johnson is a director.

verifiable integrity

Phologane, who sits on the traditional council and Wesizwe board, said that Bakubung raised R527m from the the monetisation plan.

“This money is being safely managed, is fully accounted for and is being put into implementation vehicles of the community,” he said.

He said Newshelf was owned by the IDC, the Bakubung, and a black empowerment consortium. Phologane declined to reveal the shareholders of the black consortium. Newshelf currently owns 11.94% of Wesizwe.

KPMG has established that German investment bank Deutsche Bank and South Africa’s largest industrial lender, the IDC, funded the transaction.

The funders allegedly refused to disclose details of the transaction, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Margaret claims the money could not be traced in a number of Bakubung’s bank accounts at Standard Bank, Absa and Nedbank.

The tribe now owns 12.16% stake in Wesizwe, which is valued at R173m, while Newshelf’s interest is worth R165m.

Lawyers acting for Musa, Newshelf and Johnson have dismissed allegations against their clients.

“These allegations are defamatory and therefore materially damaging to our clients’ collective reputation and will be disproven in the appropriate forum,” reads a letter from Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs.

“Our clients deny any impropriety and reaffirm that they have acted at all times both with explicit authority and verifiable integrity.”

– City Press

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