How I was bribed by premier’s man

2010-12-12 07:49

On Friday I was given R5 000 cash by Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza’s spokesperson, Mabutho Sithole.

This occurred after Sithole implored me to drop a story that implicates his boss in a multimillion-rand tender scandal.
Sithole now faces a probe by the police’s Organised Crime Unit.

When

Sithole handed the money to me, I immediately drove to the police

station to report the bribery attempt and make an affidavit.

Mabuza

is caught up in a scandal in which his friend and former business

partner, Patrick Chirwa, received a R230 million tender to supply

tractors to the province’s farmers two years ago under questionable

circumstances.

On Thursday morning, I had emailed Sithole questions about the tender.

I

then discussed the questions with him telephonically in the afternoon,

and he said they were not relevant to the premier’s office, but the

department.

However, he asked me not to write the story because it would “cause government to lose focus”.

On

Friday morning he called, suggesting a breakfast meeting but we settled

for lunch at the restaurant in the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens.

I

arrived at about 1.30pm and he was already seated, sipping red wine. I

ordered a Coke and then we ordered food. At the meeting, he insisted on

the story being dropped.

During lunch, his phone rang and he told the person he would go to “state house” after the meeting.

State house is the term used by politicians and government officials in Mpumalanga to refer to Mabuza’s official residence.

After lunch, Sithole took out two R200 notes from a stash in his pocket and offered the change to the waitress.

We then walked out and continued chatting for a short while in the parking lot because his car was being washed.

And

then, out of the blue, Sithole took out a bundle of bank notes, took my

hand and put the roll of cash in my hand. He said: “This is for

Christmas. Buy something for the kids.”

I hesitated and felt very uncomfortable. The money was dirty. I knew I had to go to the police and hand over the money.

I

asked Sithole where the money had come from and he replied: “Don’t

worry, no one knows I’m meeting you. It’s mine. It’s a gift for you to

buy something for Christmas.

“Izandla ziyagezana (Hands wash each

other). One day I will ask you a favour like I did about the story, and

will expect you to help me.”

We then went to our respective cars and I drove straight to the Nelspruit Police Station.

As I was shaking a bit, a few notes fell on the seat after I opened the door. I put the notes under the carpet of my car.

He drove off and I sat in mine, thinking and feeling angry and affronted.

The cops took me to the Organised Crime Unit, where I opened a case of bribery.

The police counted the money, which amounted to R5 000.

I feel better now because I refused to sell my soul for a mere R5 000.

Yesterday, Sithole denied the bribery attempt.

He said to City Press: “There was no bribery from my side.

“Sizwe is close to me and I have known him since 2001 when I came to Nelspruit.”

“He was one of the people who received me. We are very close. I don’t think I could bribe him.”

When

City Press pointed out to him that he handed the money over at a time

when I was writing a story about the tender scandal ­implicating Mabuza,

Sithole said: “I gave him the money and said he must buy Christmas

presents for the kids.

“I am a very generous man. The money had nothing to do with the story.”

He added: “It is the end of the year and we came from hard ­situations this year.

“I

felt I could give him ­money to buy presents for the kids. This was out

of the ­goodness of my heart and I do this all the time.”

When

City Press told him that I did not need handouts and had not asked for

money, Sithole ­insisted: “If I had the capacity to bribe people, I

would have done that a long time ago with people who have written

negative ­stories about us.

“I will stand in front of any court and say that I ­never tried to bribe Sizwe.”

Leonard

Hlathi, the Mpumalanga police’s ­Organised Crime Unit spokesperson,

confirmed that a case had been opened but declined to comment further.

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