Analysis

Why Ranjeni’s Explanation Smells of Cow Dung

By Akuba Mokoena

HAVING discarded the initial explanation that she was not working as a journalist at the time her car was allegedly paid off by the secret state security slush fund, Tiso BlackStar journalist Ranjeni Munusamy, last week submitted an affidavit explaining how her BMW convertible was paid off by a close family friend, Basheer Ahmed Abdool.

It just so happened that she made her submission too early. If she had waited for just a couple of hours before submitting it, she would have addressed the matter of the claim that the same secret slush fund paid for the service of her car. But it’s quite unclear how she could not have known that another witness would implicate her in a separate issue relating to the same slush fund. Surely the Zondo Commission would have sent her notice as they did with the original allegation. 

Crime Intelligence officer Colonel Dhanajaya Naidoo testified at the State Capture Commission last week, that he met Munusamy “about two or three times” in 2008 to facilitate repairs to her car. This followed senior Hawks official Kobus Roelefse’s testimony that a sum of R143 621 78 was paid from a Centurion-based motor dealership, Atlantis Motors, into a Wesbank finance account which was registered “under the name of Miss Ranjeni Munusamy”.

Meanwhile Munusamy submitted to the Commission that the car was paid off by a family friend who she had told about her financial demise at the time. 

According to Munusamy’s version of events, in November 2008, she had discussions with her accountant who advised her to settle the outstanding balance on her car. They again broached the subject in April 2008, she says in the affidavit. Was the suggestion by the accountant made in November 2008 or 2007?

Abdool, who had initially helped her purchase the BMW convertible in question from a “mutual friend …involved in car sales”, happened to be in Johannesburg this one time in May 2008 and Munusamy shared her financial woes with him. He had, during the same period, identified a Nissan Hardbody he liked from a dealership in Centurion. It just so happened that this dealership was in cahoots  with state security officials in looting state security funds. 

He allegedly paid the dealership “approximately R150,000 in cash” which was very close to the amount outstanding on Munusamy’s car – approximately R143,000. Abdool was scheduled to pick-up the car on May 9, 2008 but decided to withdraw the deal to help his friend. The dealership refused to give back his money and he then asked the money to be transferred into Munusamy’s account. 

Roelefse in his testimony said the amount was debited from the Atlantis Motors bank account and into Munusamy’s Wesbank account on 30 July 2008.

Then there’s the issue of the R7000 balance since it wasnt returned to the generous family friend. Oh yes, the dealer held it as a handling fee, the story goes. Contacted late last week, the Manager at Atlantis Motors, Hannes Roos said he would not comment as this happened before his time. He refused to say what percentage went towards a handling fee. 

This businessman friend never told Munusamy about the Nissan he had forfeited for her “from the bottom of his heart” until the spooks implicated her. He had only told her then that he had paid off her car and the payment was reflected in Munusamy’s account. Despite their close relationship, Abdool has never mentioned  in the 11 years how he came to pay-off her car. 

And so, do we have a receipt as proof of the R150,000? It doesnt seem like it from the affidavit and of course he paid cash and so there is no bank transaction. All we’re being referred to is an affidavit by Abdool. It may well be that the proof of this transaction is part of that affidavit but it would have been so much easier for Munusamy to simply back her R150,000 claim with proof, if it existed. 

It’s not clear from the affidavit whether this was a loan or not but once she got a better paying job, she bought another car and the BMW convertible was left for Abdool’s use, even though it remained in her name, until he sold it and retained the payment for it. 

There has been much talk from Munusamy herself and editors that she was not working as a journalist at the time (almost minimising the damage) and couldnt have influenced articles or journalists. There was “no way to predict that I would return to journalism four years later, much less favour anyone who had paid the settlement amount for me through favourable articles (if that is the suggestion)” she says in the affidavit. 

Perhaps Munusamy and the editors need to be reminded of the series of articles in BusinessDay by spin doctor Chris Vick who in his columns in 2012, spoke of widespread unethical behaviour by journalists. He recounted the ease with which he manipulated journalists, and produced articles on behalf of his clients which were published under bylines of “staff reporter”. He even gloated he had at one time written an editorial for a newspaper. 

At around the time of Vick’s articles City Press also published allegations that R100 000 was paid to a journalist to write a positive story on former crime intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli, who was an alleged murder suspect at the time. Allegations of Mdluli’s rampant looting of the slush fund and paying reporters were made by Roelofse and Naidoo, respectively. In July this year, Mdluli was found guilty of kidnapping and assaulting his former lover’s husband.

There are holes in this story which will need to be closed if Ms Munusamy wants us to believe it. 

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