A ship carrying the first consignment for South Africa from Conch Cement is scheduled to dock in Durban this week amid confusion in the market about who has the legal right to sell the product in the country.
The 17,000t consignment results from a legitimate transaction between Singapore-based Evermont International and ICC UK, which acquired the cement that will be sold in South Africa by Group 3.
Business Report revealed last month that bogus agents were taking advantage of the shortage of cement in the country through an alleged scam aimed at conning building material merchants, government buyers and agents.
These bogus agents were claiming they had access to vast quantities of cement from PPC, Lafarge, Holcim and Conch. They were allegedly taking deposits but failing to deliver.
Lim Hong Siang, the managing director of Evermont International, which obtained SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) certification last June for Conch cement, previously confirmed it had not appointed any agent or distributor in South Africa for the Chinese company.
However, Gora Ebrahim, managing director of ZF Trading, and Faizel Mohammed, managing director of FM Globe Traders, subsequently provided copies of agreements reached with Evermont.
Both Ebrahim and Mohammed said they potentially stood to lose millions of rands because contracts they had to supply cement had been cancelled, either by their prospective client or their bank, because they had been incorrectly identified as bogus Conch Cement agents.
Lim repeated last week that Evermont had not appointed any agent or distributor in South Africa for Conch Cement but confirmed that ZF Trading and FM Globe Traders were “commission agents”.
Lim said there were a number of companies or people who were falsely claiming they were agents or distributors for Conch cement in South Africa, including Toefy Distributors and Imvuso Trading 1060.
He said Evermont had the sole right to export Conch cement in southern Africa and to date it had not supplied any cement to either Imvuso or Toefy Distributors.
Munem Toefy said that while Toefy Distributors did not have anything to do with cement and was not involved in any cement scam, Evermont did not have a sole mandate to Conch Cement factories for supplies in southern Africa.
Toefy said Imvuso had letters from regulators, including SABS and the department of trade and industry, to supply Conch cement in South Africa.
Imvuso could access Conch cement directly, and its contract and allocation letter stated that one of the entities it could buy from was Conch in China. Other suppliers in its contract were the Ukraine, Russia, Mozambique and Brazil.
“There is no way Lim can attest that I cannot access this cement. Imvuso’s allocations were refreshed in January 2007 and 20 million tons of cement is coming out of various factories in China, 90 percent out of Conch Cement,” he said.
Toefy added that Imvuso had never taken upfront cash deposits and failed to deliver.
Other companies that allegedly claimed they had access to vast quantities of cement included Alphabet Street Properties 54, Baps Logistics, Hohlo Logistics and Fleet Management Services and Superstrike Investments.
Attorneys acting for Alphabet Street Properties 54 confirmed that the company was a prominent broker in the cement industry and stressed that it had at all times conducted its business activities in a lawful and legal manner.
“It has, however, come to our client’s knowledge that certain individuals defrauded businesses … under the pretence that they could furnish them with cement products, by passing themselves off as representing our client, or being in some manner associated with our client,” they said.
At the time of going to print, Alphabet Street 54’s attorneys had not supplied any more information, including when the company became aware that certain individuals were defrauding the company and what steps it had taken to inform the public of these fraudulent acts.
Chris Botha, a managing director of Superstrike Investments, which trades as The Warehouse in Cape Town, said that although the company did not sell cement, it bought product on behalf of its clients.