/ 3 August 2001

Telkom acts on scandal

The net is closing in on officials and contractors implicated in the security scandal that has rocked Telkom

Stefaans Brmmer and Mungo Soggot

Telkom pressed criminal charges this week against a controversial security company accused of colluding with Bheki Langa, the former number three at the parastatal who resigned under a cloud last month.

Langa, who was deputy chief operating officer, quit before an imminent disciplinary inquiry. He was accused of favouring and covering for Royal Security, against which Telkom has now laid fraud charges.

Telkom’s executive director for communications, Amanda Singleton, says the fraud charges laid in Durban relate to allegedly rigged invoices involving millions of rands. Sources say the company is also considering terminating its contracts with Royal, which has extensive guarding and armed response contracts with Telkom.

The probe this week also resulted in the suspension of a senior member of Telkom’s security department who previously reported to Langa. Telkom declined to comment on this.

Telkom sources say the investigation into Langa and various security companies, including Royal, is ongoing. But it appears that some senior Telkom officials, including CEO Sizwe Nxasana, are downplaying the fact that Langa is still being investigated.

Langa has shrugged off the allegations, saying they have “no basis in fact”. When he resigned on July 20, the day the Mail & Guardian published details of the probe against him, he said his departure was unrelated and he quit to take up a job in the state oil industry. “I will be taking up the position of chief executive officer in another organisation … My resignation from Telkom is not related to the allegations made against me.”

However, it appears Langa might have jumped ship too early. The Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs and state oil officials confirmed that the offer was about to be made to Langa, but said this week the job was on hold pending the outcome of Telkom’s investigation.

Some state officials say they have been told by senior Telkom executives that the investigation is not looking into Langa’s conduct, but at Telkom’s relations with specific security companies.

Nxasana, who is related to Langa by marriage, this week told financial news service Moneyweb that Langa resigned because he was offered another job. He said: “The investigation is not about Bheki per se. There is no disciplinary hearing for him.”

Nevertheless, Telkom prepared detailed charges against Langa, who was spared a disciplinary hearing only because he resigned. It is also understood that Nxasana prepared a written reference for Langa to the effect that “there is no investigation against Bheki Langa; however Telkom is investigating certain supplier contracts”.

Asked whether Nxasana felt Langa had a serious case to answer before his resignation, Telkom senior media manager Andrew Weldrick said Nxasana “feels he is not in a position to answer these questions. These issues were dealt with by Telkom’s human resources standing committee, which was chaired by [Telkom’s former chairperson] Dikgang Moseneke”. The M&G understands that Nxasana has discussed Langa’s case in detail with state oil officials.

Royal was set up by Roy Moodley, a leading figure in KwaZulu-Natal horse racing circles. Moodley and Langa have not denied their longstanding friendship, which they say dates back to their time together in the African National Congress’s undercover “Operation Vula”.

But some activists question Moodley’s struggle credentials. ANC Phoenix chairperson Sham Maharaj recounts how Moodley stood as a candidate for the racially segregated House of Delegates, part of the discredited apartheid era tricameral parliament.

Maharaj says that during the 1989 election campaign he caught Moodley and others tearing down “don’t vote” posters. Maharaj claims Moodley pulled a gun on him and other activists. They then secured a court order against Moodley.

Moodley was not available for comment, but one Royal employee said he would be surprised if Maharaj’s statements were true, as Moodley was not that kind of person and involved himself in “the community”.

Langa failed to comment.