Mkhize also signed docs

2011-07-16 18:48

The signature of KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize appears on two crucial documents that led to the provincial government spending R44 million on “dirty” water purification plants.

Yet Mkhize will not be charged with some of the province’s most powerful individuals when the “Three Amigos” fraud and corruption trial finally gets under way in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg next month.

Instead, he will be called as a state witness against his Cabinet and ruling party colleagues.

Questions of selective prosecution are now being raised as the Hawks prepare to arrest Economic Development MEC

Mike Mabuyakhulu and Speaker Peggy Nkonyeni for their alleged roles in the deal.

City Press is in possession of a letter written by Mkhize as finance and economic development MEC in July 2005 in which he passionately argues for the purification plants to be bought from businessman Gaston Savoi’s Intaka ­company.

Mkhize’s signature also appears on an internal memorandum, together with those of Mabuyakhulu and three heads of department, motivating for the plants to be built without going out on tender.

In a separate but possibly related incident, Mkhize, in a public rebuke seemingly linked to the political tensions in the province, was heckled by members of the crowd while addressing the funeral in KwaMashu yesterday of murdered

ANC eThekwini regional secretary S’bu Sibiya. Mkhize had to ask marshalls repeatedly to quieten the funeralgoers.

Last week the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) issued arrest warrants for Mabuyakhulu, who was ANC treasurer and local government MEC at the time the deal was done in 2005, and Nkonyeni, the current ANC treasurer and then health MEC. The warrants have not yet been executed.

Mkhize will be called on to explain how and why the decision by provincial cabinet to “urgently” bypass tender procedures was taken.
He has already been interviewed by investigators and has been added to the witness list.

Mkhize’s spokesperson Ndabe Sibiya confirmed he had been interviewed by the Hawks last September and subsequently gave them a statement to “clarify issues relating to his line function” as MEC at the time.

Sibiya said: “Dr Mkhize and the provincial government have pledged to cooperate with the investigation where necessary.”

The documents in City Press’ possession form part of the criminal investigation. R44 million was paid to Savoi’s company in March 2007.

In July 2005 Mkhize wrote to Mabuyakhulu to inform him the province would set up an inter-departmental team to consider buying the purification plants from Intaka for use in municipalities.

The plants would be paid for from the province’s poverty alleviation fund and needed to be finalised “in the shortest time possible”.

The final decision was approved by Mabuyakhulu and Mkhize in October 2005. Savoi allegedly paid a
R1-million bribe to the ANC in 2007 in return for the contract after the deal was brokered by treasury head Sipho Shabalala, with the price of the units being inflated and false quotes from competitors generated to justify the deal.

Shabalala, his wife Ntombi, Savoi, former health department head Busi Nyembezi and eleven others have already appeared in court in connection with the case, which resumes on August 1.

The warrants against Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni have thrown the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal into disarray, with their backers questioning the timing of the warrants ahead of the party’s elective regional conferences next month and ­provincial conference next year.

Mabuyakhulu has been punted as a potential replacement for Mkhize as chairperson by some ANC regions and has been approached to stand as chairperson of the party’s Far North region.

Nkonyeni’s name also appears on party slates as potential deputy chairperson.

There have also been claims that the warrants were secured by a ­second investigative team, but that was dismissed as “lies” this week by acting provincial prosecutions head advocate Simphiwe Mlotshwa, who signed off on the ­warrants.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga dismissed claims of political interference, saying the warrants were signed on July 4 by Mlotshwa “on the assessment of the evidence uncovered and the suspects involved”.

Mhaga said a decision to effect arrests against “those against whom evidence was clearer” had been changed and the warrants would only be executed after the investigating team had prepared a final charge sheet.
He said this would be done “in the next few days”.

Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni would be charged along with additional accused who were still under investigation.

Mhaga said there was “no intention” to cancel the warrants against the two.

Spokespersons for both Mabu­ya­khulu and Nkonyeni refused to comment but said neither had been approached by investigators over the warrants.

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