8 August 2004

South Africa: MP Agrees to 'Sell' His Seat to a Friend

Johannesburg — A MEMBER of Parliament negotiated a bizarre deal to sell his seat in the national assembly to his longtime friend for almost R200 000.

Parliamentary wannabe and former IFP councillor Mohamed Saderk Mansoor was so eager to realise his dream of going to Parliament that he paid Minority Front MP Royith Bhoola R20 000 in cash as a down payment.

Bhoola - a former councillor who owns a shoe shop in his hometown of Umzinto, sings in a band and recently released a CD - allegedly told Mansoor in May that he was "tired" of Parliament.

He signed an agreement - a copy of which is in the Sunday Times's possession - with the 62-year-old grandfather, wherein he claimed he would resign from his one-month-old seat.

Mansoor, Bhoola's friend of 20 years, was promised the seat in exchange for a payment of R93 000 for "election costs" incurred by Bhoola as well as a further R100 000 in payments of R2 000 a month. Once the agreement was signed, Bhoola even gave Mansoor several parliamentary travel claim forms to fill in as well as an itinerary for portfolio committee meetings.

"It has always been my dream to go to Parliament so I jumped at the opportunity when he approached me, saying that Parliament was not for him. The money meant nothing to me," Mansoor said this week.

In an ironic twist, he said Bhoola had insisted on drawing up an agreement.

"He said everything was above board and even told my wife that he would arrange a three-bedroom cottage in the parliamentary village for us to stay in."

Bhoola denied signing any agreement but admitted to "taking a loan" to pay for unpaid expenses incurred during the run-up to the April elections.

But leader of the MF, Amichand Rajbansi, told the Sunday Times that Bhoola had told him he had signed what he thought was a receipt for the R20 000. "He said he was unaware that it was an agreement as such."

Following the Sunday Times's inquiries, Bhoola's wife handed over a cheque to Mansoor to the value of R20 000 late on Friday.

Speaker for the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, said: "It is the most outrageous thing I've ever heard.

"I need to know the specifics in order to make a well-considered comment. But, if anything like that has happened, it would not be difficult to deal with.

"It is obviously illegal. A person obtains his seat through an election. The system is very clear."

The two men, meanwhile, had attended a meeting facilitated by Rajbansi at his Chatsworth home on July 17.

"Mr Mansoor was under the impression he could succeed Royith Bhoola as an MP but this was dispelled by me," Rajbansi said.

Mansoor says Bhoola "manipulated" him by playing on his naïveté and eagerness to become a parliamentarian. He said subsequent attempts to retrieve his money had also proved fruitless.

He said both his son and son-in-law had been present when Bhoola struck the deal with him.

But Bhoola said: "Mr Mansoor and I have been good friends. I emphatically deny what he is saying. I know he has had an urge to go to Parliament but at no time did I make any promises."

He said he had been unable to get hold of Mansoor to pay him back the R20 000 "loan".

Meanwhile, another man has come forward claiming that Bhoola owes him money. Soobramoney Reddy sold his home in the area last year for R85 000.

The money was apparently placed by Bhoola in an MF trust account. But Rajbansi this week denied the existence of such an account.

Reddy said the cheque was given to Bhoola last October. Bhoola then gave him a confirmatory letter, which is in the possession of the Sunday Times.

Yesterday, Reddy received R26 000 in cash from Bhoola as part payment of the outstanding money.

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