Protector rejects minister's claims
Pretoria - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday dismissed claims by Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde that two controversial leases were endorsed before she became public works minister.
On Tuesday last week the public works minister claimed: "These contracts were entered into before I became minister."
However, at a news briefing in Pretoria, Madonsela said the initial lease for Pretoria’s Middestad building had not been signed when Mahlangu-Nkabinde became minister of the department on November 1 last year.
"The lease we are taking to court right now happened under the minister’s supervision."
According to Madonsela the lease was signed on November 22.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde's predecessor Geoff Doidge, who is now the South African ambassador to Sri Lanka, had put the deal on hold pending the completion of Madonsela's investigation.
"At the time the minister came [to be minister], the lease as we know it now had not yet been signed."
The public works department received advice from senior counsel Pat Ellis on the same day "indicating that the original purported lease was invalid", Madonsela said.
She said the department should have cancelled the deal after this advice.
Last week Mahlangu-Nkabinde applied to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to have the lease, signed with businessman Roux Shabangu for police office space, declared null and void.
At the time she said: "I cannot be held responsible for what happened before my time, but I can promise that we will get to the bottom of all irregularities."
Speaking about the lease in Durban, also with Shabangu, Madonsela said: "Durban had no lease until this minister came [into office].
"We were just saved by fate. We would have lost the money, more than a billion, in Durban."