KwaZulu-Natal businessman Vishal Seebran was preparing to defend himself against charges that he tried to bribe Eastern Cape education department boss Modidima Mannya in return for stationery contracts.
Seebran, in his personal capacity and on behalf of his three companies, Paper Active (trading as New Age), Mega Papers and African Paper Products, would have to answer to charges of corruption when his trial begins in the Port Elizabeth regional court in early February.
Also on trial are local businessman Sibongile Mtshixa and Peter Mkhanda – who are both accused of being involved in the alleged dodgy deal.
According to the charge sheet, the charges relate to a tender for the supply for stationery awarded in December 2010.
Seebran submitted tender applications on behalf of his three companies. While Mega Papers was disqualified after an inspection of its premises, his other two companies were among six bidders to be awarded contracts totalling more than R43 million.
The state would lead evidence that Masia Mashapa, an acquaintance of superintendent-general Mannya, was asked by Mkhanda, at the behest of Mtshixa, to set up a meeting with Seebran.
The purpose, it is alleged, was to discuss the possible reinstatement of Mega Printers as a bidder and to increase the amounts awarded to his other two companies.
The state alleges Mashapa was told the companies were willing to pay Mannya for this.
Mannya, when told of the approach, reported the matter to the police.
A further meeting was held between Mashapa, Mtshixa and Mkhanda and it was agreed that Mashapa would be paid a R200 000 facilitation fee to set up the meeting.
It is alleged that at the meeting between Seebran and Mannya on December 31, 2010 – monitored by the police – Seebran offered to pay Mannya R600 000 for every R10m of the stationary tender awarded to his companies.
The next day, he paid R140 000 to Mashapa as part-payment of the facilitation fee. Mashapa gave R50 000 of this to Mkhanda.
The following day – January 2 last year – Seebran and Mannya met again. Seebran confirmed that his partner, Mtshixa, would deliver the money and Mannya received R150 000 in cash as part payment.
Seebran’s attorney, Edward Abraham, said yesterday his client would plead not guilty to all the charges against him and his companies.
He said advocates Kemp J Kemp, SC, and Paul Jorgensen had been briefed to handle the trial; and advocate Hoosen Gani to handle any civil litigation which might arise.
“We strongly believe there is no merit to these charges and we will be acquitted,” Abraham said.
“There is a big credibility issue with the state witnesses, including the superintendent-general. Hence the trial has only been set down for one week – from February 6 to 10.
“Depending on what happens, we intend to take this matter further and will look at our options with regards civil actions after the trial is over,” Abraham said. – The Mercury