Malema ally lashes Gordhan

2012-01-21 20:07

Controversial Limpopo businessman Steve Bosch – a benefactor of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema?– has told Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to his face: “Don’t make government’s problems our problems.”

Gordhan came face to face with irate service providers, trade unions and church organisations at a heated meeting in Polokwane on Thursday, following national government’s intervention in the province.

Bosch, who has come under fire for allegedly building sub-standard low-cost houses in Limpopo, claimed he had no income following Gordhan’s intervention.

According to two government sources at the meeting, an angry Bosch, who claimed he employed 130 people and hadn’t been paid since October last year, told Gordhan government’s problems shouldn’t become his.

Bosch, a housing contractor and hardware store owner with multimillion-rand government tenders, last year conceded that he “donated” huge sums of money to Malema’s Ratanang Family Trust.

Gordhan said the intervention into provincial treasury and the health, education, public works and transport departments started in November after the province couldn’t afford to pay the salaries of employees.

He gave the assurance that service providers with legitimate claims would be paid within 30 days.

Bosch couldn’t be reached for comment.

At a press conference before the meeting, Gordhan said the province was R2 billion in the red.

A national treasury official said the “war” between provincial leaders and national government would heat up following Gordhan’s briefing.

Seven ministers had to leave a Cabinet lekgotla in Bela Bela to attend the briefing, called on short notice and following disparaging remarks about the intervention by ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa last weekend.

Phosa, who said Mathale’s powers were “stolen” from him, was rebuked this week by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

The ANC in the province claimed that the intervention, which came shortly before the party’s elective conference in December, was done because political leaders in the province were opposed to a second term for President Jacob Zuma.

They claimed the intervention should have happened in other provinces too.

At a briefing on Friday, Limpopo ANC secretary Soviet Lekganyane said they had written to Mantashe for advice about the intervention to “avoid unnecessary bickering”.

Mantashe could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The hostility between provincial and national political leaders dramatically intensified this week:
» Limpopo leaders claimed Gordhan had not invited them to Thursday’s briefing. Lekganyane told journalists that Gordhan and his ministers sent “selective invitations to some to the exclusion of constitutionally recognised and elected leadership”.

He said “the pronouncement of disparaging allegations levelled against any deployee of the ANC in their anticipated absence was tantamount to mobilising the constituency against that leadership”.

Premier Cassel Mathale’s spokesperson Mashadi Mathosa said Mathale had not received notice of the press conference, and another official in his office said “there was not a single Limpopo government representative at that press briefing”.

Limpopo government spokesperson Tebatso Mabitsela was there, but said he was invited by chance after someone in government communications in Limpopo informed him.

At least two national Treasury sources said Mathale was informed by government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi, but Limpopo spokespeople denied this.

Manyi did not respond to specific allegations, but said in a text message there was an “agreement” in December last year between them and the provincial government that Gordhan would handle communication on the intervention.

Gordhan told journalists provincial leaders weren’t present because it was national government’s briefing.

» Lekganyane said probes into misspending should also include the years before 2009 – when the current administration of Mathale took over.

Before 2009 former premier Sello Moloto’s administration made deals that included the disposal of provincial government property; “incomplete” housing projects; the awarding of mineral rights in the province; and the health information system, for which the provincial government was still paying. A Limpopo provincial executive committee member said if such investigations were undertaken, it would “hurt” some former Limpopo MECs who were now in national government.

» Both sides have made claims of service delivery sabotage. Lekganyane said Gordhan had instructed that all payments to service providers be stopped, while Gordhan claimed service providers were told by some in the province that they shouldn’t deliver services because they wouldn’t get paid.

» Mathale was quiet during discussions in the Cabinet lekgotla, which premiers attended on Friday.

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