Nelson Mandela has withdrawn permission for his name to be used to promote an exclusive club of 37 former African Presidents, known as the Africa Forum, amid allegations of fraud. The forum was set up in 2006, with Mandela as its patron, and is chaired by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano.
But a small charter airline, Fastjet, has laid criminal charges with the SA police, alleging that the forum’s executive secretary, Dr John Tesha, lied to the firm to get it to fly five former Presidents to Liberia for the country’s independence day celebrations in July 2008.
Fastjet CEO Shaun Roseveare said Tesha told him he had the support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the WK Kellogg Foundation in the US, "which gave us a lot of confidence that we were dealing with a credible organisation".
Although the Africa Forum was meant to pay the US$208, 000 for the service upfront, Tesha and Fastjet reached a "gentlemen's agreement" that payment would be made within two days of the flight.
The former leaders who were flown to Monrovia included Chissano, Nujoma – who altered Namibia's constitution to gain a third term as that country's president – Zambia's ex-president Frederick Chiluba, who was cleared on corruption charges last year, and Ghana's former dictator and then elected ruler, Jerry Rawlings.
But the forum didn't pay up.
In a letter to Fastjet's investigators in September 2009, the Mandela foundation's acting CEO, Verne Harris, said "we are deeply disturbed" by what happened, and said "neither (Mandela) nor the foundation has had any involvement whatever in the forum's operational activities".
This week, Harris confirmed that the Mandela foundation had rescinded its patronage of the Africa Forum.
"When it became apparent that the forum was not doing things in an appropriate way, we withdrew his patronage," Harris said.
Although Harris noted the forum "acknowledged the communication", its website still prominently boasts that Mandela is a patron.
But Tesha vehemently denies that he told anyone that the Mandela foundation would provide funding.