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State capture: Ranjeni Munusamy explains car payment, wants to cross-examine witness

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo at the state capture inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg.
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo at the state capture inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Senior Tiso Blackstar journalist Ranjeni Munusamy says a close family friend paid R143,000 to settle her car loan for her BMW convertible, but she only found out last week that the money came via Atlantis Motors, a company linked to a Hawks investigation into Crime Intelligence.

Munusamy said that Basheer Ahmed Abdool - who she grew up with in Dannhauser, KwaZulu-Natal, and regarded as a "brother" - had offered to pay off the car when she was experiencing financial difficulties.

Abdool, she said, had paid R150,000 cash to Atlantis Motors for a vehicle he was interested in buying. But he cancelled that transaction and asked the dealership to pay the money into Munusamy's Wesbank account to settle her loan.

Abdool never disclosed this to her, she added.

This is contained in an affidavit submitted to the state capture commission on Monday in which Munusamy, who has been placed on special leave, requests to cross-examine Hawks investigator Colonel Kobus Roelofse.

In testimony at the state capture commission last week, Roelofse claimed that he came across a R143,000 payment from Atlantis Motors to Munusamy's vehicle finance account when investigating alleged looting of a Crime Intelligence slush fund. He said he was looking into corruption between Crime Intelligence and the car dealership when he noted the payment.

At the time of the alleged payments, Munusamy was not working as a journalist.

In her affidavit, Munusamy denied being on the Crime Intelligence payroll and said she only found out in the wake of Roelofse's testimony that the money came through Atlantis Motors.

After the testimony, she spoke to Abdool, who she refers to by his first name in the document.

She said Abdool, a businessman involved in the fruit and vegetable industry, had been in Johannesburg when she confided in him that, on the advice of her financial adviser, she was considering paying off the car to make more money available for her home loan payments. After discussing her financial situation with Abdool, he offered to pay off the car.

"When I revisited the payment of the settlement amount with Basheer [Abdool] last week, he confirmed that he paid the settlement," she said.

Munusamy said Abdool was interested in buying a car at the time and saw a Nissan Hardbody at Atlantis Motors. He liked it and paid R150,000 cash.

"In light of my financial predicament, on the morning of May 9 2008 he [Abdool] called the dealership to cancel the sale of the Nissan Hardbody. He was told that he could not get his cash back but that the dealership could transfer the funds back to his account. Instead, he asked the dealership to transfer the outstanding amount ... to my Wesbank Vehicle Finance account," she said, adding that Abdool had to "forfeit" the balance of the money as a "handling fee" for making the transfer.

"He says in his affidavit he knows nothing about the allegations that Crime Intelligence was involved at Atlantis Motors," she added.

Later in her 19-page affidavit, Munusamy claims that Roelofse was trying to put a "sinister spin" on the payment.

"I had no idea that Basheer had arranged to pay the settlement through Atlantis Motors after cancelling the purchase of his van. That was his private arrangement with Atlantis Motors, which I knew nothing about. All I knew was that a close family friend - a brother to me - had helped me out with my financial predicament," she said.

Munusamy said she was "horrified" at the allegations against her.

"Mr Roelofse suggests in his evidence that I have been paid by Crime Intelligence, that I am effectively an agent of theirs on their payroll. I am horrified by the allegation. It is false.

"The ... allegations are extremely serious and have the potential to destroy my reputation as a journalist. I wish to make it clear that I deny having been involved in any act of bribery, fraud or money laundering. I deny that I wrongfully and unlawfully benefited from state funds as part of an unlawful scheme.

"The entire narrative is not only bizarre, but the conclusion it reaches - that I am corrupt or committed any wrongdoing - is false. Moreover, Mr Roelofse does not state or provide any evidence of what I had done or what I was expected to do in exchange for payment from the [State Security Agency]," argued Munusamy.

Munusamy added that at the time of the payment, she was not a journalist - and there was "no way to predict that I would return to journalism four years later, much less favour anyone who had paid the settlement amount for me through favourable articles (if that is the suggestion)".

She claimed that Roelofse contacted her in 2014 as part of an investigation into her car. She said she requested to meet with Roelofse with her lawyer, but he never contacted her again.

This is in contrast to Roelofse's claim at the commission that he tried to contact Munusamy three times in 2014 and she never got back to him.

Meanwhile, Munusamy also provided a brief response to testimony from former Crime Intelligence officer Col Dhanajaya Naidoo, who claimed at the commission on Monday that he personally handled repairs to the vehicle. He said Munusamy handed the vehicle over to him at a petrol station near her home.

Although Munusamy did not deal with the specifics of Naidoo's claims, she again denied that she was paid by Crime Intelligence.

"I have no idea of what the motives of those who have accused me are and why I have been targeted. I state unequivocally: I have never been in the pay of Crime Intelligence, whether as a journalist or otherwise."