Johannesburg – Independent Media’s Investigations Unit has reliably learnt how Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa) officials allegedly helped a Greek national to fraudulently retrieve a R2 million loan from the bank account of a black female-owned business in 2015.
The funds that were meant to benefit Mendiswa Mzamane’s Razoscan was one of many approved loans for small businesses from previously disadvantaged communities, but evidential corruption from Sefa left Mzamane with a major company loss.
Independent Media’s Investigations Unit spoke to Mzamane previously, along with other affected businesses, and learnt that the matter was under investigation by the Hawks.
This left Mzamane no choice but to approach the Pretoria High Court for an urgent application to request that the immediate financial relief be released from Sefa as her businesses were on the verge of collapsing.
Several other businesswomen also revealed how sketchy dealings by Sefa officials allegedly resulted in their businesses suffering tremendous losses and they have since sent their grievances to both Parliament and Sefa over the approved loans.
Sefa falls under the Department of Small Business Development and its core function is to foster the establishment, development and growth of SMMEs and co-operatives, and to contribute towards poverty alleviation, job creation and economic growth.
Sefa and the department did not respond to questions although they had promised to do so. Both were given almost two weeks to respond.
Among the affected businesses are Razoscan, Big Discount Supermarket and Mampotla Trading. Razoscan chief executive Mzamane revealed that she was approved for a loan of R3.2 million to finance the purchasing and exporting of fruit to a company in Dubai, her first big deal after securing funding.
She claimed that the funds meant for her company were fraudulently moved from her escrow bank account to that of her supplier’s, a Greek national, with the help of a Sefa official.
The funds were never to be seen again after being released to the supplier and Sefa instituted legal proceedings against Mzamane to try to recoup the stolen funds. The matter was, however, thrown out of court on September 7, 2017.
Mampotla Trading chief executive Dora Masoa claimed that she was forced to pay a bribe of about R80 000 to get a loan, which she still has not received to date.
Masoa said she had secured a contract to construct 129 RDP houses with the promised funding from Sefa in 2014. She said she had laid the foundation for construction but had not been paid. In January 2016, her creditors demanded repayment but Sefa had still not followed through with their financial obligation.
Big Discount Supermarket’s Mathapelo Patel said her loan had not yet been approved when Sefa encouraged her to resign from her full-time employment and to move her supermarket from Senekel to Bethlehem to get the funds.
She alleged that Sefa told her that her loan was almost approved and that there was nothing to worry about, and even encouraged her to enter into lease agreements with property companies and to expand her business, spending almost R140 000 of her own money. Months after paying R22 500 a month for rent, Patel said she was told that her loan was not successful.
Patel said her husband was the main applicant for the loan but Sefa said they would only be approved if she was the main applicant as her husband was Indian and Sefa was “dealing with a collusion problem with Indians”.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation corporate communication and liaison officer AC Hani confirmed that AfriForum, had approached their office with a query over a matter being probed by Table View SAPS.
Special Investigations Unit