Staff members went unpaid, mounting debts to service providers, organisation kicked out of its Yeoville offices, despite donors pouring in money. Panicky old guard bays for new chairman’s blood.

Mxolisi Ncube

JOHANNESBURG – New African Diaspora Forum executive chairman, Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, has unearthed a massive rot bordering on suspected gross mismanagement of the organisation’s funds by the old executive, which is now baying for his blood.

Infighting has now rocked the Johannesburg-headquartered organisation, as efforts rich fever pitch for the hasty removal of Sibanda from office, in what some of the organisation’s insiders say are desperate attempts to stop him from publicly shaming those implicated.

Soon after he assumed office late last year, Sibanda hit the ground running as he began a self-cleansing process aimed at ridding the ADF of malpractices of the past, which are said to have scared away some of the organisation’s funders.

The process, initiated by the new leadership of the Zimbabwean-born legal practitioner, is part of his numerous efforts to reposition the ADF as a clean and trustworthy advocacy group for migrants.

Sources within the 10-year-old organisation however, say Sibanda’s determination, which has uncovered a serious financial rot, has touched off a raw nerve and faced a massive hall of resistance from the old guard, which is now baying for Sibanda’s blood.

Sibanda took over the reins of the ADF from long-serving founding chairman Marc Gbaffou at the organisation’s annual general meeting held in Yeoville, Johannesburg, late last year, when he beat two other hopefuls in an election.

Six months on, Sibanda has apparently unearthed a massive breach of organizational operational standards, bordering especially on suspected financial embezzlement, failure to account for donor funding, exploitation of staff members, confiscation of organizational property, a huge debt to service providers and failure to fully serve the migrant population.

This audit has apparently not been received well those implicated, who are said to have infiltrated the new five-member executive and influenced some office bearers to turn against their chairman, in what is believed to be a bid to force a stillbirth to the investigations.

Already, daggers have been drawn against Dr Sibanda, with allegedly clandestine but growing calls for his hasty, albeit unconstitutional removal from office by some members of the alleged cartel, working with those that Dr Sibanda defeated in the elections and others within the new leadership.

“Sibanda has uncovered a lot of rot within the ADF and people are not happy, especially those who abused organizational funds,” said one source within the ADF.

“I tell you, after this audit is over, many people will be exposed and others may be arrested or blacklisted. Huge sums of money were siphoned from donors, no financial reports, and no payments to service providers, staff members were told they are volunteers and the organisation was kicked out of its offices in Yeoville last year for failing to pay its rent, while some people were living large from its funds.”

The first signs of an alleged bid to oust Sibanda are carried in a letter signed by former chairperson Gbaffou, who now leads the ADF’s newly-created fundraising structure called the Board of Trustees.

In the letter, Gbaffou accuses Sibanda of, among other issues, refusing to work with other elected members of the executive, creating a parallel structure, “modifying” the ADF constitution, opening a new bank account, discriminating against other members and trying to change the name of the organisation.

“…Please take note that we are calling for a meeting with migrant community leaders and the broader migrants community in South Africa on the 18th May 2019 to try and rescue the ADF from the havoc that you have created within the past few months,” reads part of what looks like an ultimatum. It does not state who was calling that meeting and in what capacity they were calling it. In other lines, the meeting is referred to as a “Special AGM”.

“…Leaders at the meeting will decide on the way forward based on their views on your reports. We are using this opportunity to inform you all that, while awaiting to resolve the matter at hand in a peaceful and respectable manner during the special AGM, the office at 4th Floor located at 47 Sauer Street, Johannesburg will be closed.”

Sources deny that Sibanda committed any of the alleged wrongdoings, claiming instead, that all those were cooked-up charges meant to either stop him from exposing the rot or remove him and hand the organisation back to the same “rotten people”.

Dr Sibanda confirmed Monday that some “discrepancies” had been unearthed especially in the ADF account and that this was the basis for the hasty call for his removal from office. He however, vowed to continue to fight for what was right.

“We have picked some discrepancies and some disturbing trends in terms of how finances have been spent and the fact that there were some funds that came in last year but staff members were not paid and there are some debts being owed to service providers,” said Dr Sibanda.

“We are actually trying to establish how these funds could have been used. We are looking closely into this past financial period to ascertain what exactly has transpired and obviously you see that it does look like the organisation has not been functioning as would have been expected.

“So we are currently trying to see if we can speak to various regulatory bodies like the Department of Social Development to establish what they have and what they haven’t got because some of our funders have not come forth to provide any funding especially because they were not able to get some of the audits that they were supposed to get despite the numerous attempts they have made to try and get them and at the end of the day we remain flagged, and that is why we say we need to get to the bottom of all the issues that are hanging here and establish as to what has happened.”

Sibanda hinted there was outright disrespect for his executive from the day it was elected into office.

“Even us as an executive we came in, we have not received anything in terms of handover, in terms of assets which are still being held by other people and you see there is quite a good number of things that show there is no respect for the rule of law and the laws of this country because NPOs (Non-Profit Organisations) are not personal properties, they own their own property and nobody can take the property of an NPO for whatever reasons. The property of an NPO follows where the NPO is operating from, it cannot be individualized.”

At the time of going to print, attempts were being made to kick the ADF out of its offices, at a building owned by the Independent Media, where the NPO was housed since it was kicked out of its Yeoville offices.