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Pule's shoes 'not sponsored'

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Carol Bouwer Productions (CBP) denies saying sponsorship money for the ICT Indaba was used to buy a pair of designer shoes for communications minister Dina Pule.

Media reports yesterday said Carol Bouwer's spokesman, Victor Dlamini, confirmed that Christian Louboutin shoes, like the ones worn by Pule at the opening of the indaba, were bought in Barcelona by subcontractor for the event, Phosane Mngqibisa.

Mngqibisa allegedly has romantic links to Pule, and his employment as subcontractor of CBP for the indaba came under fire when it was revealed he withdrew sponsorship money for the event days after it was put into CBP's account.

Media reports also say his company, Khemano, only got the contract because of his personal links to Pule, and CBP was forced to make him a joint signatory on its account.

'No sangoma'

Dlamini denies confirming any allegations around the purchase of the shoes.

He says Mngqibisa did take R100 000 from CBP's account to attend the GSMA Mobile World Congress, in Spain, in February.

“He went to attend the congress to do preparatory work for the indaba. The entire trip was for the ICT Indaba and as is normal, he tried to attract delegates for the event.”

Media reports say CBP received invoices from the trip and one included a purchase of the shoes.

“I don't know why they don't just say they're writing fiction. They just made it up. It's pure fiction. I don't know if he bought shoes with sponsorship money. He has his own personal money so how do we determine which money he used? I'm not a sangoma. I can't guess which money someone has used.”

Dlamini says his communication with the publication involved occurred via e-mail and so it “astonishes” him that his responses could be altered.

“I have never come across such nonsense. I am aghast. I said I don't know if shoes were bought. I don't think this guy is broke. He could have bought the shoes with his own money.”

The spokesman says in his response to queries from the publication he said he did not recall the contents of the invoices including one for Louboutin shoes.

“At no point did I say sponsors' money was used to buy shoes. It makes you wonder what else they're making up.”

ITWeb was unable to reach Mngqibisa.

Proper conduct

The Department of Communications (DOC) has chosen to remain silent on the matter, as has Pule.

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of communications Marian Shinn says this latest allegation should spur the Public Protector to urgently consider investigating the conflict of interest of Pule as requested by the DA six weeks ago.

She adds that the allegations around the designer shoes are alarming. “These allegations add to the growing evidence pointing to financial impropriety by Phosane Mngqibisa, the man reputed to be romantically linked to minister Pule.”

“As these funds were solicited by, and paid to, a private firm that was contracted by the Department of Communications, the matter cannot be investigated by the auditor-general, or subjected to public scrutiny.”

Shinn says Parliament's Ethics and Members' Interest committee has instigated a probe into Pule's potential conflict of interest in the matter. It is expected that a date for a hearing will be announced soon.

The auditor-general investigated the issues around the inaugural ICT Indaba and found no improper conduct.

Normal withdrawal

Media reports in June said millions in sponsorship fees were drawn from the account of CBP by Mngqibisa within days of being paid by sponsors Telkom, MTN and Vodacom.

Themba Nyathi, human resources executive officer at MTN SA, says the operator last month hired legal firm Werksmans to audit the sponsorship money donated for the ICT Indaba.

They have not produced a report yet. “At this moment these are allegations; hence MTN is investigating through Werksmans Attorneys. If the allegations that the money was abused [are true] then naturally MTN would be disappointed and legal action would follow to recover the funds. Criminal and civil suits will follow if the forensic investigation proves that funds were abused.”

Mngqibisa has told the media he withdrew the money to pay suppliers and Dlamini confirms this. “That's why he was a signatory on the account, to pay suppliers. Joint signatory on accounts for projects of this scale is quite normal.”

Disclaimer: ITWeb was one of several media partners for the event.

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