/ 6 December 2022

Fraud allegations rock Black Management Forum

An alleged undocumented Congolese was appointed by the BMF, which is still reeling from rape charges against its suspended president Andile Nomlala

The apparently fraudulent appointment of an allegedly undocumented Congolese as the Black Management Forum’s (BMF) managing director has thrown the organisation into further turmoil, after its president was suspended for rape and sexual assault charges. 

A showdown is expected on Saturday, when the BMF will hold a special general meeting, which, according to the agenda, could lead to the expulsion of suspended president Andile Nomlala, who is facing rape charges levelled against him by a former BMF intern. 

The organisation counts telecommunications company MTN and industrial firm Bidvest as its major sponsors. 

Libongo Ndabula, the BMF’s company secretary, confirmed that the acting managing director, Philippe Bakahoukoutela, is being investigated by the empowerment lobby group for allegedly submitting a fraudulent résumé, which claimed that he had a work visa and was married to a South African. 

Bakahoukoutela also doubles up as the BMF’s head of stakeholder relations, a position he has held since April 2020. 

According to internal documents sourced by the Mail & Guardian, Bakahoukoutela has been the BMF’s managing director since July last year, having first joined the organisation in June 2007 as the Western Cape provincial coordinator and marketing executive. 

The documents show that Bakahoukoutela raised more than R18 million for the BMF since March 2019 when he served for a year as the organisation’s head of marketing and operations. 

Included in his résumé is that he attracted R2 million a year funding from MTN and the Bidvest Group each, “despite the Covid-19 pandemic economic impact”. 

According to the home affairs department, Bakahoukoutela has an unknown marital status and no work permit is recorded. 

Sources close to the BMF said its 13-person board, which Bakahoukoutela is part of, has been aware of the fraud allegations against him since at least June, and that its acting president, Esethu Mancotywa, “refuses to remove him”. 

“[Mancotywa] refuses to remove Mr Bakahoukoutela even with the submission of three board members that this [lying about a work visa] is fraud by Mr Bakahoukoutela,” said one senior source, who asked to remain anonymous. 

Responding on behalf of the BMF, Mancotywa and Bakahoukoutela, who were sent questions by the M&G, Ndabula confirmed that the organisation was aware of the fraud allegations against its managing director. 

“The BMF is presently investigating the issues that you requested Mr Bakahoukoutela to comment on. Once the investigation has been concluded, we will issue a press release,” Ndabula said. 

The M&G sent follow-up questions to Ndabula after establishing from senior BMF sources that the organisation’s board “shut down calls for the termination of Mr Bakahoukoutela’s employment and membership”, in the week leading up to the annual conference last month.

“A vote was taken during the board meeting, and eight members voted to keep Mr Bakahoukoutela and not terminate his employment and BMF membership,” said another source with intimate knowledge of the meeting, who also asked to remain anonymous. 

Ndabula said she had “no instructions” and would not respond to further questions from the M&G

The questions included whether the BMF was covering up alleged fraud, when the organisation began its investigation and is expected to conclude the inquiry, and whether the lobby group vetted Bakahoukoutela’s documents prior to him being made managing director.

Philippe Bakahoukoutela

Meanwhile, Saturday could see the permanent removal of Nomlala as the BMF’s president. 

The alleged rape and sexual assault apparently happened in May last year at Nomalala’s home in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

The notice for Saturday’s meeting, which was signed by Ndabula as company secretary, states that the gathering will move for the convening of a special general meeting, as well as “for the BMF board to engage members on officially removing the suspended president from all official BMF marketing material such [the] website, annual reports [and so on]”.

Nomlala’s lawyer Brett Murison said: “The sexual assault allegations are unfortunate and the matter is now with the law enforcement [agencies]. Our client is committed to cooperating with the investigations.”

Nomlala has been the BMF’s president since his election in October 2018. 

Ironically, it was Bakahoukoutela who publicly announced the suspension of Nomlala.

”The Black Management Forum stands against the abuse of women and is against any form of gender-based violence. The BMF board of directors takes this opportunity to reaffirm its stance against any form of gender [violence],” Bakahoukoutela told the Sowetan on 10 October. 

Various structures of the BMF have publicly stated their push for Nomlala’s removal, with the Free State office also calling for the board’s dissolution. 

“From the beginning of Mr Andile Nomlala’s [presidency] tenure, the Black Management Forum has been inundated [with] scandals,” said Mosebetsi Dhladhla, the BMF’s Free State chairperson.

“Allegations of mismanagement of funds [and] countless legal action against BMF yet the board still found the confidence to continue supporting Mr Nomlala. 

“An appointment of Mr Nomlala’s ally, Mr Philippe Bakahoukoutela, a Congolese national, with no formal recruitment process followed and no [valid visa] papers,” Dhladhla added.

“BMF members are looking at having a special [annual general meeting] to disband the board if the board is unable to conduct its duties to the members and the organisation that it is meant to serve.” 

This view was echoed by Nhlanhla Simelane, the BMF’s Gauteng coordinator, who also called for “harsh action” against Nomlala and the board, according to an internal note sent to the M&G.