Minister says her voice yet to be heard
Pretoria - Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde said on Friday the past few months had been tough on her as she remained in the spotlight over the police office lease saga.
"I have been a public representative all my life and I have never seen my face in almost every newspaper [as has been the case] for the past six months," she told reporters after meeting provincial MECs in Pretoria.
She wanted to convey her side of the story and put a lid on this "burning matter".
Asked whether she thought she had been fairly treated, she said: "I don't know whether I was treated fairly or unfairly. I still maintain my voice is yet to be heard."
Dealing with the matter amid public scrutiny and criticism had been tough, but "politics is not an easy game". She had put her trust in the African National Congress for support.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde said the lease debacle was not discussed during Friday's meeting.
She denied dodging portfolio committee meetings in Parliament, saying she and her legal team had made themselves available.
"Last Tuesday, I presented myself to all political parties [in the committee] because I wanted people to stop saying that they can't find me, I am nowhere to be seen, I don't want to respond."
Mahlangu-Nkabinde said she and her lawyers stayed throughout the meeting and insisted she was ready to respond to questions people needed to ask.
"The chair of the public works portfolio committee requested that can't I wait until such time that the portfolio committee of police took part in the meeting."
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her first report, "Against the Rules" in February, in which she found a multi-million-rand lease for new police headquarters in Pretoria unlawful and invalid.
She released a second report, titled "Against the Rules Too" in July, on the lease of Durban's Transnet Building to the police.
The Durban lease would have been worth R1.16bn over 10 years, and that of the Middestad Building in Pretoria R604m over the same period.
Madonsela recommended that President Jacob Zuma take action against Mahlangu-Nkabinde for failing to co-operate with a probe into the two leases.
National police chief General Bheki Cele was also chastised, as he was the accounting officer for the leases signed with businessman Roux Shabangu.
The Democratic Alliance filed criminal charges against Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde with the Cape Town police in August.
Zuma submitted his preliminary report on Madonsela's findings to the speaker of the National Assembly early last month, and it was then referred it to both the public works and the police portfolio committees.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde said it was important for South Africans to know what had happened. She said she had been waiting a "very, very long time" and had asked that the matter be tabled and finalised in the coming weeks.
"My request was that the matter be put on the table this week, but unfortunately the portfolio committee is out on oversight [visits] in other provinces."