Thanks to the Covid-19 crisis, the legal battle between the ANC and a private market agency, accusing the party of refusing to pay it R102million for election work, will be settled away from the public glare.
The lawsuit brought by the KwaZulu- Natal-based Ezulweni Investments against the governing party was due for a hearing at the South Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg on Monday.
But the courtroom reserved for the matter was empty, only for Ezulweni’s lawyers to later reveal to The Star that the battle will be settled on filed argument papers.
Ezulweni and the ANC’s lawyers have informed the court that they were comfortable with the matter being handled without hearing oral submissions.
Given the coronavirus spectre, the country’s courts were handling several matters without hearing oral submissions. This happened with the green-light of the opposing parties’ lawyers.
Sarlie & Ismail Inc, the Bezuidenhout Valley-based law firm representing Ezulweni, told The Star an agreement was reached with the ANC legal team that the case could proceed without an oral hearing.
“In terms of a Joint Practice Note filed by both legal teams in the matter, we have agreed that the matter may be disposed of without oral argument and that neither party wishes to supplement the papers with additional written submissions,” said the firm.
Renash Ramdas, the chief executive of Ezulweni, sought to recoup R102m he maintained the ANC owed his company, for production and installation of electioneering banners.
Ezulweni produced and installed 30000 PVC banners that the ANC allegedly ordered before the May 2019 elections.
The banners, printed in Durban and China, were installed on street poles across the country – except the Western Cape – just a week before the elections. The ANC was invoiced at R2900 per banner, and R70 for the installation and removal of each banner. The invoiced R102m included more than R13m in VAT.
Ramdas said in his papers that he had attempted several times, since May last year, to get the ANC to pay him, to no avail.
He said the banners were ordered by Luthuli House officials Nhlanhla Mabaso and Lebohang Nkholise.
“Nkholise advised me that the ANC was experiencing cash-flow constraints as a result of the national general election, but assured me we would be paid immediately after the election campaign,” said Ramdas in his affidavit.
But the ANC maintained it would not pay because it did not order the banners, according to reports.
Paul Mashatile, the ANC treasurer- general, told the media the party was defending the matter because it did not order any posters from Ezulweni. He maintained the order needed a go-ahead from either himself or Fikile Mbalula, who was the party’s head of elections. This did not happen.