Fire them, Pres Zuma

2011-07-16 17:49

City Press Says

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said she was not

going to tell President Jacob Zuma what to do with her second scathing

report on police building leases this week.

But she hoped that he would do the “right thing” to those implicated.

We do not want to leave open the interpretation of what Madonsela might have meant, so we will spell it out: Fire them.

The credibility of our public institutions is at risk.

Public

Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde has not only nearly cost the

state hundreds of millions of rands in wasteful expenditure, but thought

herself above the scrutiny of a constitutional institution when she

refused to answer some of Madonsela’s tough questions.

The minister’s misconduct means that she cannot be trusted to lead the state’s main procurement office.

Police chief General Bheki Cele has, for the second time, been found to have acted unlawfully.

How

is a nation expected to place its confidence in the top police officer

when he himself thinks nothing of contravening legislation?

And this comes not too long after his predecessor, Jackie Selebi, was convicted of corruption.

Sicelo Shiceka, the cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister, has been on sick leave since March.

Our

local tier of government, which is at the coalface of service delivery,

has been without political leadership at a time of bloody protests and

unrest.

Being compassionate toward incapacitated comrades is

honourable, but when it affects governance and the invalid is drowning

in allegations of gross irregularities – including visiting his

incarcerated girlfriend in a foreign land – it is time to pull the plug

on the minister’s career.

We agree with labour federation Cosatu

that in other functioning democracies, the three would long have

followed their consciences and resigned.

We don’t yet have such a

culture here, so we urge the president to do the right thing and put

these three out to pasture forthwith:

The dodgy cop
General Bheki Cele’s short career as police chief hangs in the balance after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found he acted unlawfully – again.

Cele’s office said he would respond to Madonsela’s latest findings early this week after studying her report into the Durban police building lease agreement.

In February Madonsela found Cele guilty of unlawful and irregular behaviour during negotiations to lease businessman Roux Shabangu’s Middestad building in Pretoria.

On Thursday, Madonsela slated Cele for a range of offences –from his failure to ensure that proper procurement processes were followed, to his personal involvement in identifying Shabangu’s Trans­­­net building in Durban as suitable space for the police.

Although Cele denied choosing the building, Madonsela found he signed documents identifying the Trans­net building. Police sources also told Madonsela it was Cele who told them to lease Shabangu’s building.

Madonsela couldn’t find any proof of an improper relationship between Cele and Shabangu, but the Public Protector is not a law enforcement agency and Madonsela’s powers didn’t allow her to conduct a full forensic probe.

In his interview with Madonsela, Cele said he did not “necessarily view” the involvement of Shabangu in both transactions as suspicious. Madonsela called the police process of leasing the Transnet building “extraordinary”.

“Firstly, the original plan of the SAPS was to construct a building to accommodate the provincial head office. Secondly, a building was identified to be leased prior to the full extent of the need being determined by the SAPS.

Thirdly, the needs analysis was then found to closely correspond with the available lettable floor space of the Trans­net building,” she wrote.

The Citizen reported on Friday the Transnet building was a “wreck”, having being vandalised for years, with no electricity, walls or air-conditioners.

The ‘elder sister’

Property developer Roux Shabangu refers to Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde as his “elder ­sister”.

According to Madonsela’s report, the suspended director-general of public works, Siviwe Dongwana, told her that Shabangu showed him SMSes on his cellphone of communication between him (Shabangu) and Mahlangu-Nkabinde over the leases.

In her interview with Madonsela, the minister said she had telephonic contact with Shabangu and met him on more than two occasions.

According to Dongwana, Mahlangu-Nkabinde told him she had studied “a bit of law” and was satisfied there was nothing wrong with the Middestad lease agreement.

She refused to fully cooperate with Madonsela during her probe, which made it “extremely difficult to obtain her version of the events”.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde ignored two legal opinions that the Middestad lease was invalid and instructed Dongwana to continue with it.

After initially agreeing to halt the Durban lease until Madonsela had finalised her probe, Mahlangu-Nkabinde initiated a new procurement process in April.

This was “improper and undermines public confidence in organs of state,” Madonsela found.

The minister failed to meet the requisite stewardship and acted contrary to government principles.

Madonsela also found that public works hugely over-valued the building, which required major refurbishment and upgrades.

Instead of paying more than R6 million rent a month, the department should only have been ­paying about R1.8 million.

The lease agreement lapsed earlier this year after Shabangu failed to register the building in his name.

Madonsela asked President Zuma to consider taking action against Mahlangu-Nkabinde for her role.

She was also ordered to explain her actions to Cabinet within 60 days.

The big spender

Sicelo Shiceka, the controversial cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister, has been on sick leave since March this year.

President Jacob Zuma ­appointed Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa in February to act in the position in ­addition to his police duties.

City Press understands ­Zuma and his top ANC ­officials met Shiceka last month to inform him that he would be relieved of his ­duties.

Apparently Zuma was not satisfied with Shiceka’s written reply to media claims of abuse of taxpayers’ money.

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu said he could not confirm or deny if the meeting took place, but said it was ­Zuma’s prerogative to ­appoint and sack ministers.

The presidency would not comment on the matter.

Speculation was rife this week that Shiceka’s sacking was imminent. Then the minister told the Sowetan on Wednesday that he had fully ­recovered and was ready to resume his duties.

But his ministry said on Thursday that he was still on leave due to ill health.

According to a recent ­Sunday Times report, ­Shiceka abused public money by visiting his girlfriend in a Swiss prison. She was there for a drug-related offence.

He reportedly flew first class (with his personal assistant) at a cost of R335 000. He allegedly spent an additional R32 000 to hire a ­chauffeur-driven limousine to take him to the prison.

Shiceka also spent R640 000 at an ultra-luxurious hotel, the One&Only, in Cape Town.

In an act of sheer extravagance, he spent R55 793 for one-night’s stay at the same hotel while attending Zuma’s State of the Nation address.

Zuma promised that the ­allegations against Shiceka would be dealt with urgently. “Here there is going to be action . . . and we are not going to take long even to ­investigate because these are too serious allegations made against the minister,” he told The Star back in April.

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