Executive Insights

Meet the 38-year old South African involved in a R6 billion mask disaster in the UK

Business Insider SA
nathan engelbrecht
Nathan Engelbrecht with Alice Horlick, daughter of his business partner Tim Horlick. Photo: Getty
  • A company with a South African at its heart won a contract to supply the UK government with 200 million masks - but 50 million of the masks cannot be used by the NHS.
  • Ayanda Capital's co-founder, Nathan Engelbrecht, was trained in Cape Town, and has interests in South Africa.
  • He has produced a movie, once ran an art gallery – and it now at the centre of a row over PPE provision contracts in the UK. 
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The article has been amended pursuant to submissions received from Ayanda Capital.

A 38-year old South African now finds himself at the centre of a storm over a disastrous £252 million (R6 billion) contract to supply masks to United Kingdom government hospitals.

Nathan Engelbrecht is co-founder of Ayanda Capital, which in April won a contract with the UK government to supply 200 million masks to the British National Health Service (NHS).

But the UK government said around 50 million of the masks couldn’t be used because, instead of head loops, they have ear-loop fastenings, which according to UK standards means they may not fit tightly enough to create a “seal” between the mask and the face. There is nothing wrong with the masks, says Ayanda Capital, but the head-loop fastenings were preferred by the UK Department of Health and Social Care.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "very disappointed" about the masks, the BBC reported.

On top of that, it has now been revealed that an advisor to the UK government, Andrew Mills, initially received the contract. He then asked that the contract be transferred to Ayanda, which didn’t have any background in medical supplies, on the grounds that it could arrange overseas payments quicker. Mills is an adviser to Ayanda, which is owned by a Mauritius-based company, reports The Scotsman.

The UK government is now being sued by two different groups for its decision to award the mask contract to Ayanda, and the opposition Labour party is also demanding an inquiry into why Ayanda got the deal, The Times reported.

In a statement published by the BBC, Ayanda Capital said: "The masks supplied went through a rigorous technical assurance programme and meet all the requirements of the technical specifications which were made available online through the government's portal."

"There are provisions in our contract for product to be rejected if it did not meet the required specification as per the contract. These provisions have not been activated."

Engelbrecht told the UK publication Wealth Manager that due process was followed throughout the procurement, including "full technical assurance of the products involved and thorough due diligence of our ability to perform the contract".

He founded Ayanda – which according to the company is "a name of African origin meaning growth" – with the British investment banker Tim Horlick. Horlick’s daughter, Alice, is Engelbrecht’s partner.

Engelbrecht is a director of three South African based companies, including Ayanda South Africa, which was founded 2017. Its head office is listed in Bantry Bay, Cape Town, according to Companies and Intellectual Property Commission records. Horlick is also a director of the local Ayanda group, and of another company registered at the same Bantry Bay address, called BGC.

Horlick and Engelbrecht previously ran a cryptocurrency business, and were directors of the Blockchain Group, based in the UK.

Engelbrecht previously owned a gallery in London, which made headlines in 2013 when two Damien Hirst prints – worth £33,000 (or R750,000 at current exchange rates) – were stolen. He also opened a “Victorian-themed” bar with Alice Horlick in London. 

Engelbrecht holds business degrees from the University of Cape Town. According to his online profile, he has "set up and helped run various successful startups from sectors including fine art, film finance and hospitality".

Engelbrecht is listed as a producer on a short film called A Family Affair, according to the movie data base IMDB.

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