Fani Titi. Picture: SUPPLIED
Fani Titi. Picture: SUPPLIED

Politically connected businessperson Peter-Paul Ngwenya says charges against him around his alleged use of the ‘k-word’ against former friend and Investec CEO Fani Titi, are a fabrication to mask a commercial dispute between the two.

Ngwenya is the chair of the Makana Investment Corporation, and spent almost five years in prison on Robben Island. He is facing a charge of crimen injuria for allegedly using the racial slur towards Titi in a text message.

In the same SMS‚ Ngwenya told Aqeel Patel‚ the MD of MRC Media‚ “You will bleed‚” and that Titi “will see his mother”‚ which Titi regarded as a threat to his life since Ngwenya knew his mother had died.

The conflict between Ngwenya and Titi‚ who had been friends for 20 years‚ stems from a multimillion-rand deal that went sour.

Ngwenya says Titi owes him close to R54m.

The relationship degenerated when Ngwenya allegedly called Free State-born Titi a “Qwaqwa k****r” and a "Bantustan boss" in an SMS intended for Patel.

Ngwenya‚ who took the stand to defend his case on Tuesday‚ told the Randburg Magistrate's Court that he had regarded Titi as his "kid brother".

He said he was introduced to Titi in 1995.

“I was invited to serve on the board of the Mail & Guardian. Fani [Titi] was also invited to serve on the same board‚” Ngwenya said.

Two years later‚ the two of then applied for a free-to-air television licence‚ Ngwenya said.

“He was my kid brother. I found him to be passionate about the same things I was passionate about. People even said we looked alike‚” Ngwenya said.

He said the case he was now facing came as a result of a conflict between him and Titi. He said he found out in 2015 that Titi had not honoured the agreement they had entered into. Ngwenya accused his longtime friend of having stolen assets from him.

“A dispute over shareholding between ourselves resulted in verbal exchanges.” He said the charges he was facing were without merit.

“It's a fabrication to disguise a commercial dispute that exists between myself and Fani Titi. This is the conduct of a man who wants to paint me blacker than I am‚” Ngwenya said.

Titi told the court in 2018 that he feared for his safety.

“It is extremely egregious for someone to call you a k****r. The words portrayed the level of danger that someone of his stature could descend to‚” Titi said.

He told the court that he and Ngwenya had never clashed until they fought over money Ngwenya believed he was entitled to.

“I valued the friendship we had. Ours was a good friendship. What happened … was contrary to what I knew of him. It felt reasonable to say that the picture was inconsistent with that of the man I’ve known‚” Titi said.

He said he had taken Ngwenya’s threats seriously‚ especially because of his military background.