Published in News 24’s City Press dated 15 Feb 2022

A black-owned law firm in Sandton, tasked with investigating the R54 billion procurement of 1 064 locomotives for Transnet in 2014, feels vindicated that the majority of their findings were contained in the state capture reports.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Thobani Mnyandu, director at Mncedisi Ndlovu & Sedumedi Attorneys (MNS), said that it was encouraging for the firm and the public that their work had been taken so seriously, especially after naysayers had taken their report to task.

Mnyandu told City Press:

This shows that the things the naysayers were saying – that there were ill-findings or wrongdoing in the reports we produced – were untrue.

Transnet appointed MNS Attorneys in 2018 to probe what Mnyandu described as the biggest procurement event in the country’s history, bigger even than the arms deal.

“The magnitude of the work that needed to be done [was immense]. We had to retrieve information, millions of pages, millions of documents from Transnet with a time span from 2009 to 2018 when we were initially appointed. The work we did eventually went beyond 2018,” Mnyandu said.

Through their investigations, they found that the rot at Transnet had gone beyond that deal.

READ: Transnet: A blueprint for state capture

“The investigations led us to investigate the procurement of the 95 locomotives that were procured in 2011. The procurement of the 95 locomotives is the transaction that introduced the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) implicated in the 1 064 deal,” said Mandla Mnisi, who is also a director at MNS.

The firm eventually produced six reports, including the one about the procurement of the 1 064 locomotives. The report delved into the transaction advisers; another looked into the relocation of OEMs from Gauteng to Durban and its financial advisers.

READ: Firm ordered to repay profit it made from R200m worth of ‘corrupt’ contracts from Transnet

The firm’s founder, Tshiamo Sedumedi, testified at the Zondo commission on behalf of the firm in 2019. At the time, commission chairperson Raymond Zondo talked about the importance of the work the firm had done.

Zondo said: 

The documents that they obtained are all part of the record of which the report is made. They are quite important because the findings made must be tested against the record that was available.

Talking about some of the backlash the state capture report has received, Feziwe Phungula, another director at the firm, said the focus was on the applicability of the law. “We were not looking at rumours. We just looked at what the law says. We didn’t care about any fightbacks. Anyone who wants to rebut our recommendations should do so by arguing on the point of law.”

“Until now, no one has taken our work to review,” Mnisi said.

Their work on Transnet, which was showcased in the Zondo commission, is the culmination of a hardworking black firm, which is celebrating 20 years of service, asserting themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the law space, Mnisi said.

READ: Mondli Makhanya | The erstwhile patriots who sold their country

“The firm was established to contribute to the development of legal jurisprudence among black lawyers. We have grown into a firm with more than 20 lawyers with a wide range of expertise, including procurement. No one can claim to know some of these fields more than us, even though we were only established in 2002.

“We don’t compromise in that we are a black law firm, but it is not the only thing that defines us. The quality and service we provide is something we also pride ourselves on.”

Mnisi concluded: 

As black professionals, our work is judged differently. So we work twice as hard to ensure that we produce quality work that satisfies our client’s needs. We want to be regarded as the best law firm in the country, if not Africa.

State capture reports

The second part of the state capture report showed in minute detail how state-owned enterprises such as Transnet and Denel had been captured by former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet and used as cash cows for the Gupta family.

READ: Denel: how to steal a parastatal

According to the report, the rail and freight operator introduced a new business model, called the market demand strategy, which was spearheaded by former Transnet executives Anoj Singh and Brian Molefe. Singh was the chief financial officer of Transnet at the time, while Molefe was its CEO.