Amigos: the pain of blowing the whistle

2013-06-16 06:00

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In mid-2009, Kantha Padayachee was appointed head of legal services in the KwaZulu-Natal health department.

Six months later, she was suspended for racism, the day after she made a statement to Hawks detectives probing the R144 million so-called Amigos tenders-for-donations scam.

Padayachee, a mother of two who had worked for the department for almost a decade before she was suspended by MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo in February 2010, this week told the Durban Labour Court she paid a very heavy price for her actions.

In her three-day evidence in chief, Padayachee said she had been “singled out” and subjected to a protracted suspension despite policy stipulations that she should have been given a hearing within 60 days.

After she was suspended, she said she had been subjected to “derogatory statements and increasing legal costs” to defend herself.

Padayachee said the three-and-a-half-year suspension had drained her and her family financially and emotionally.

She had been forced to cede policies and use her children’s education fund to pay lawyers to represent her in the action.

Padayachee was unwilling to talk to City Press.

However, her husband, Pregs, who accompanied her to court every day, said the suspension had taken a “heavy toll” on their family.

“This has been very hard for us. She is under so much stress. This has affected her health and has changed her as a person,” he said.

Padayachee’s court action has laid bare the ruling party’s “contracts for donations” machine in the province.

Padayachee said during a meeting to discuss the contracts for hospital oxygen purifiers in December 2007, she was told by ANC provincial treasurer and former Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni that she (Nkonyeni) was under pressure to sign off on the Intaka deal.

Intaka boss Gaston Savoi allegedly wanted the contract before he would give the ANC money.

Savoi and a group of government officials and ANC leaders are currently facing corruption charges over Intaka’s deals with the KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape governments.

Nkonyeni, who is now the speaker in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature; and economic development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, a former ANC provincial treasurer, were both charged with corruption.

But last October, the National Prosecuting Authority dropped the charges against them, while refusing to make public their reasons for doing so.

In the KwaZulu-Natal case, Savoi is alleged to have paid the ANC R1 million in return for R144 million in contracts.

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