/ 27 September 2007

Majali to sue Sunday Times for defamation

African National Congress (ANC) funder Sandi Majali — known for his role in the Oilgate scandal — is to sue the Sunday Times for defamation following its story implicating him in the disappearance of money meant for an Eastern Cape school feeding scheme.

”Sandi Majali intends instituting a damages claim against the Sunday Times for defamation. Counsel has been briefed and the Sunday Times has been notified accordingly,” said Majali’s attorney Barry Aaron on Wednesday.

Aaron added that a request, in terms of the Access to Information Act, for the production of a forensic auditor’s report on the matter, would be sent to the office of the Eastern Cape premier.

A separate letter would be sent to the premier’s office demanding the ”immediate release” of the report, by auditors Ngubane & Co. This was ”so that immediate action can be taken by Majali, his constitutional rights having already been grossly violated”.

The 51-page report was commissioned by Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela.

Majali also called for the Public Protector to investigate the Ngubane report, its terms of reference, the procedures followed and its being leaked to the newspaper.

On September 23, the paper published a front-page story headlined ”ANC funder took millions meant for starving kids”.

According to the article the Ngubane report fingered Majali for the disappearance of more than R100-million intended to feed starving children in the Eastern Cape.

The feeding scheme, meant to cater for a million children, collapsed six months after it was launched in June 2006. It then emerged that food was not getting to children at about 5 000 schools.

Majali was in charge of four out of six community cooperatives that were awarded tenders to distribute supplies to 104 smaller cooperatives that would then prepare the meals and get the food to the children.

According to the Sunday Times the Ngubane report found that:

  • Majali’s cooperatives were irregularly awarded tenders;

  • Majali’s cooperatives were irregularly paid at least R16-million over four months; and

  • Majali’s cooperatives were overpaid by R9-million.

As the head of oil company Imvume Management, Majali was a central figure in the Oilgate debacle surrounding R11-million of taxpayers’ money paid to the ANC as election funds ahead of the 2004 elections. He was also named in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal. – Sapa