Minister ‘forced D-G to enter into SAPS leases’

2011-07-01 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Shortly after her appointment as Minister of Public Works, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde basically forced a top official of her department to enter into rental contracts worth R1,2 billion with businessman Roux Shabangu.

This disclosure was made in the interim report of the Public Protector, advocate Thuli Madonsela, about her investigation into the rental contract of the Transnet building in Durban to be used as the headquarters of the SA Police Service in KwaZulu-Natal.

According to the report, Public Works’ internal investigations into the rental contracts ended after President Jacob Zuma replaced Geoff Doidge with Mahlangu-Nkabinde during a cabinet reshuffle on October 31, 2010.

Siviwe Dongwana, the previous director-general of Public Works, said in a statement to the Public Protector that he signed both rental contracts (one for Durban and for the Sanlam building in the Pretoria CBD) very reluctantly at the end of November 2010 because of “constant pressure from the minister and Shabangu”.

“It seemed as if Shabangu had a direct line to the minister and that he communicated directly with her and her advisers,” reads Dongwana’s statement.

Not only did Shabangu refer to the new minister as his “older sister”, but he also showed Dongwana text messages between him and Mahlangu-Nkabinde concerning the rental contracts for the two buildings.

According to the interim report, Mahlangu-Nkabinde admitted during her interview that she had — since her appointment as minister — often spoken with Shabangu over the phone and met him a few times at her office and elsewhere.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde was, however, not willing to answer any questions concerning the rental contract for the Sanlam building in Pretoria.

She also denied that she was in any way involved in the rental contract for the Transnet building in Durban and said Dongwana was responsible for this agreement.

According to the report, however, there is no reason to doubt Dongwana’s version of events. Madonsela said his evidence agrees with the information obtained from other witnesses, as well as with the documentation used during the investigation.

The Public Protector said Dongwana’s explanation, that he eventually agreed to sign the rental agreement for the Transnet building because of pressure from the minister and Shabangu, “is believable”.

Madonsela added that because Mahlangu-Nkabinde was unwilling to answer questions and “hesitant” to give her full co-operation during the investigation, it was “extremely difficult” to compare her version of events with that of Public Works officials.

Dongwana was suspended shortly after he had signed the rental agreements in November 2010 for “reasons of which he was not even aware”, according to the report.

Spokesperson for Mahlangu-Nkabinde Sam Mkhwanazi contacted Beeld yesterday and said Mahlangu-Nkabinde denies the Public Protector’s allegation that she did not give her full co-operation during the investigation.

Madonsela found that Mahlangu-Nkabinde forsook her constitutional duties as minister and that she acted “unlawfully”.

In her first report, made public in February, Madonsela also found that national Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele acted irregularly and unlawfully in connection with the rental contracts for the Transnet building and that he made himself guilty of mismanagement.

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