Doidge slams Shabangu’s R50m claim

2012-03-10 19:21

Former public works minister Geoff Doidge has emphatically denied inviting property mogul Roux Shabangu to a meeting and offering him R50?million to “walk away” from the contentious Middestad lease.

Doidge, now South African ambassador to Sri Lanka, filed an affidavit in the North Gauteng High Court this week in which he refutes Shabangu’s allegations that the two met at Durban’s Sibaya Casino to discuss the lease contract.

Doidge’s claim comes in the week that police commissioner Bheki Cele faced a barrage of questions about allegations that he and his subordinates went ahead with the deal without following proper tender procedures.

City Press understands that Shabangu will not testify at Cele’s hearing, but has instead tabled affidavits filed in his high court case with the department of public works.tabled the entire court file instead.
Doidge was sacked by President Jacob Zuma in October 2010, a few weeks after the purported meeting took place.

City Press believes that Shabangu plans to refute Doidge’s contention in court that they merely bumped into each other as “guests” at a dinner in Durban.

It is also understood that the department dispatched a team of lawyers to Colombo, Sri Lanka, last week to obtain Doidge’s response to the R50?million claim.

In his affidavit Doidge claims when the two men met it was Shabangu who complained about the Middestad lease not being implemented.

At the time, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was still investigating the lease.

Doidge claims Shabangu had previously tried repeatedly to telephone him to discuss the lease.

“It is absurd to suggest that, with my knowledge of reported irregularities relating to the lease and with the Madonsela investigation under way, I would make an offer of the wholly arbitrary sum of R50?million or any other (offer) to Mr Shabangu. I deny this emphatically,” said Doidge.

According to Doidge, the two also discussed Shabangu’s concerns that his company had not done a good job in the construction of a police station in Mpumalanga.

But City Press understands that Shabangu’s legal team will refute Doidge’s allegations .

Breaking his silence since he was fired in a cabinet reshuffle, Doidge reveals that while he was minister he suspected there “was a disturbing closeness between (public works) officials and Mr Shabangu”.

Doidge claims that his attempt to meet Nedbank chief executive Mike Brown was not a move to reach an out-of-court settlement but to “alert” Brown to Shabangu’s proximity to public works officials.

The meeting between Doidge and Brown never took place.

Doidge’s statement is part of the state’s replying affidavit, filed to counter Shabangu’s claims that the lease was valid and binding to the department of public works because it was signed by director-general Siviwe Dongwana, who was later suspended.

Dongwana claims that, despite approving the lease contract, he had no prior involvement in the initial tender processes and that, “inappropriately”, Shabangu had “inside knowledge of what was going on inside the department”.

Dongwana alleges that Shabangu was privy to information that even he, as accounting officer of the department, did not know.

The state also places the blame squarely on the SAPS heads and former public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde for forcing Dongwana to approve the lease even though a legal opinion obtained by Mhlanagu-Nkabinde advised against it.

The state also argues that even if senior officials had approved the lease, they did not do so in the interests of the department.

For the first time the state’s affidavit reveals that suspended acting DG Sam Vukela, who filed a disputed supplementary affidavit contradicting the state’s case that the lease should have gone out to tender, was suspended by the department in October last year.

He was suspended on allegations of maladministration, financial misconduct and poor financial management.

The department’s acting DG, Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie, who has replaced Vukela as the accounting officer acting in the case, also refutes Shabangu’s contention that even if the lease had been put out to an open tender process this would not have made a difference because there was no available accommodation in Pretoria at the time.

Fatyela-Lindie also rejects Shabangu’s claim that it was the department’s own officials that approved the lease and went as far as reassuring Shabangu’s funders, Nedbank, that the lease was going ahead, despite an investigation by Madonsela and the Special Investigating Unit.

The state is also rejecting Nedbank’s application to become a respondent in the case, arguing that Shabangu’s financiers do not have a legal interest but a “financial” interest in the matter.

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