Mamphela Ramphele abandons debt

Johannesburg - Former Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele allegedly moved to cash in shares worth R10m to pay Agang debts and staff salaries, but later reneged, saying she needed to protect her assets, City Press reports.

Ramphele left the party with a trail of debts totalling millions, and now angry suppliers are taking her and the party to court to recover their money. Ramphele, however, denies being personally liable for Agang’s debts.

One of the suppliers, Tracy Tarry, whose firm Red Cherry Events Managements is owed R750 000, said she facilitated talks between Ramphele and investors who were interested in buying some of Ramphele’s Mediclinic shares. Her family holds shares worth R30m in trust.

Tarry says the debt has ruined her. “I had to borrow money from my home because it’s killed me financially. She has put me in so much debt that all my resources have dried up. I have borrowed so much that every possible place I can borrow from has now turned me away. I can’t even pay school fees. She has destroyed people’s lives.”

Ramphele lives in a Camps Bay home worth R10m, as estimated by herself in a pre-election declaration of wealth.

Tarry has served Ramphele and Agang with a final letter of demand and will go to court if she is not paid.

Tarry said Ramphele and her son Hlumelo Biko demanded more money when the shares suddenly spiked. The investors were unwilling to pay more.

Companies that are owed by Agang include those that printed posters, banners and T-shirts; one that provided security; and a UK-based firm that offered political advice and strategy. They are owed about R10m.

Current and former staff members of Agang have not been paid in months, and are owed R1.7m. They range from senior executives to administrative staff.

Former Agang spokesperson Thabo Leshilo said he was struggling to pay his bills and the last time he received a salary from Agang was in November. Leshilo was fired just before the elections after questioning Ramphele’s move to stand as the DA’s parliamentary leader.

“I can confirm my December salary has still not been paid,” Leshilo said.

“For her to leave Agang the way she did, I see as a cynical, to leave other people with her own debts. Her departure means she washes her hands of the debts of the party.”

A security company that is owed almost R1m has also sent a final letter of demand. The owner, who asked not to be named, said they were giving her and the party until the end of this month to pay up or face further legal action.

“We need the money. We have sent her a letter of demand. I have also emailed her to ask for a firm commitment,” said the aggrieved supplier.

Contacted for comment, Ramphele said: “I resigned from Agang and I don’t owe money in my personal capacity. I have lost a lot of money in Agang. The monies that are owing are monies owed by Agang. All political parties post elections have huge debts. I have nothing to do with Agang.”

Agang insiders said donors, mostly South Africans living abroad, were at first enthusiastic about funding the project. But after the failed attempt to merge with the DA, funding started drying up. That fiasco also led to serious unhappiness in the party, and Ramphele later quit.