Premier, wife to sue Dirks

2011-06-27 00:00

PREMIER Zweli Mkhize and his wife, Dr May Mkhize, have instituted legal action against former Msunduzi deputy mayor Mervyn Dirks

The suit emanates from a report in The Witness earlier this month in which Dirks alleged that the premier’s wife was a director of a company, Mantombazana Holdings, which benefitted in a R240 million smart meter contract awarded to a Port Elizabeth-based company, Unique Mbane.

He alleged that after the awarding of this tender the Msunduzi executive committee(Exco) and the media begain to raise questions and May Mkhize resigned from Mantombazana.

The premier vehemently denied that he and his wife were involved in any corruption or business with the municipality.

He said his wife was a director of Mantombazana Holdings, but had long resigned by the time the Unique Mbane Consortium was in place.

On June 15, the day The Witness published the story, the Mkhizes’ lawyer, Sibu Ngubane, wrote to Dirks and demanded that he release a press statement retracting his allegations and apologising to the Mkhizes.

Ngubane said in the letter, “We are of the view that your allegations create an impression that the premier’s wife ‘bailed out’ on this transaction when it was questioned by Exco, thus labelling her a corrupt, unethical person who fraudulently secures municipal tenders and when on the verge of being investigated, she escapes.

“Furthermore, your allegations are not only factually incorrect and misleading, but they are also highly defamatory to our clients, a direct attack on their character, and they undermine the public offices that they occupy.”

In a responding letter Dirks denied having made “unfounded allegations” and said he could not understand “how this factual statement can be defamatory”.

In an interview with The Witness yesterday, Ngubane confirmed that after Dirks had failed to comply with the demand, she filed a defamation suit for R100 000 against him on Friday.

Commenting on the demand for R100 000 in damages, Ngubane said it is clearly not about the money, “but what is important is the retraction of a false statement made against the premier and his wife and the apology”.

Ngubane said that according to the report, the premier’s wife resigned after allegations had been made public, whereas she resigned and transferred her share within Mantombazana in June 2007, long before the tender for the contract was advertised in May 2008.

“The insinuation contained in these allegations is that the premier uses his position to get tenders from municipalities, which has made people draw inferences that the premier is corrupt and using his position to get tenders for his wife,” Ngubane said.

Premier Mkhize’s spokesperson, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said, “The premier remains committed to clean governance in the province of KwaZulu-Natal …”

The premier “will not allow any individual, including Mervyn Dirks, to make false, misleading, malicious and defamatory statements that go against his vision and mission of leading a corruption-free government”, Sibiya added.

Dirks said he will meet the premier in court as he believes there was nothing untoward in the press statements he made.

He observed that the premier showed concern only about himself and not about the content of the corruption allegations contained in the statement.

“As the provincial head of the ANC deployment committee, more than a year ago the premier asked me and fellow Msunduzi councillors to resign, but up to this day no allegations have been made against us.

“They always say there is an investigation being conducted, but since our resignation we have never been interviewed by the investigators whilst our names are being ridiculed.

“I opted to release all this information into the public domain because nothing was being done about our case,” Dirks said.

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