Troubles grow for k-word businessman

He may soon be the first black man to be convicted for calling a fellow black man a “k****r”, but businessman Peter-Paul Ngwenya has bigger issues to contend with. Since his fallout with former business partner and current chairman of Investec Bank Fani Titi, Ngwenya has seen a massive source of income dry up – with Titi, by proxy, being the one turning off the taps.

Ngwenya believes he is owed at least R3,7 million by a company controlled by Titi called Tsiya Radio (Pty) Ltd. Tsiya owns FM radio assets such as Heart FM in the Western Cape and Gagasi FM in KwaZulu-Natal.

Peter-Paul Ngwenya

The slandering kerfuffle now playing out at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court is the result of a long-running dispute over who the shareholders are of Columbia Media (Pty) Ltd, which eventually led to Ngwenya’s making that “Qwaqwa” remark in an SMS to Titi. (nose224)

Ngwenya claims he owns Columbia outright while Titi, his business partner Aqueel Patel and Videovision Entertainment Consortium (Pty) Ltd – owned by famous South African producer Anant Singh – claim they own 49% of the company and that they have signed documents to prove it.

But Columbia Media only has one source of income which is an 8.3% shareholding in Tsiya Radio. Titi has the biggest shareholding in Tsiya Radio, effectively controlling 40%, with the remainder spread between Videovision (22.30%), Patel’s family (9.2%)  and Titi’s lawyer Zoe Banchetti of Tugendhaft Wapnick Banchetti and Partners (8.5%).

While Titi has maintained he had no say in Tsiya Radio’s decision to withhold the dividend payments to Columbia – claiming he and Patel had “recused ourselves from participating in any board meeting in which any decision would be made by Tsiya” – it is clear he influenced the remaining board to withhold dividends. And this has been the case since November 2016 when the last payment of R589,770 was made to Ngwenya – but only after he stormed Titi’s Sandhurst office and allegedly threatened  to “kill these dogs”.

Titi’s issue was that not only was Ngwenya not acknowledging his shareholding of the company, he was also running Columbia without complying with any fiduciary duties and held no company bank account, with all dividends being paid directly into Ngwenya’s personal bank account.

Ngwenya has maintained that at no stage did he hide the fact that the money went into his bank account ever since his first dividend payment in December 2013, along with several other ad hoc payments up until 2016, totalling about R3.5m.

According to documents seen by Noseweek the dividends for Columbia Media are being paid into an interest-bearing account controlled by Webber Wentzel.

But now Ngwenya’s legal team is is labelling the move to withhold Columbia dividends “illegal”, stating there is no court order giving them the authority to do so.

In a letter addressed to “The Directors” at Tsiya Radio, dated 11 July, Nkulunga Mthembu of Ramushu Mashile Twala Inc said “Titi and Patel… are not entitled to withhold dividend distributions due to Columbia” because their claim has not been confirmed before any court of law.

“The dispute between Titi, Patel and Columbia does not entitle Titi and Patel to make decisions at Tsiya which affect Columbia based on a claim that is unsupported by a court order”.

She said the withholding of the dividends was unlawful as Columbia was opposing an application by Patel and Titi to force the company to pay them dividends.

Mthembu had said payment should be made by “no later than Friday 13 July 2018” into an account Ngwenya set up in the name of Columbia.

Titi maintains that he, Patel and Videovision launched an application to force payment in August 2017 at the South Gauteng High Court. So far, no court date has been set.

Ngwenya told Noseweek that the civil matter was “on ice”. He did not know whether his lawyers had lodged an application but conceded they were “soft” on the matter. He said he would only be back in court for the criminal case, on 29 October.

Titi has placed Barry Roux SC on a watching brief for the proceedings in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court.

“Two weeks ago I was approached by another person sent by Titi to try to settle the matter but this guy didn’t know all the facts.

“About three weeks ago I received a summons from Gagasi FM stating I owed them some money. They said they had bought me Durban July tickets and that I owed them R13,000. I’ve never been to the Durban July.

“They also said I had a loan from the radio station of R500,000 but they can’t provide details. It’s all nonsense,” said Ngwenya.

Previous attempts to get comment from Titi have been unsuccessful.

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