Police lease deal was valid – suspended acting DG

2012-03-19 10:55

Former public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and state attorneys disregarded crucial information which may have proved that the controversial police lease deal with businessman Roux Shabangu was in fact valid.

This is according to papers filed by suspended public works acting director-general Sam Vukela in the North Gauteng High Court.

Vukela, who is being investigated by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela for allegedly having an improper relationship with Shabangu, claims that he had signed the founding affidavit to have the R500 million Middestad lease nullified at “gunpoint”.

Vukela, whom the department suspended for allegations of maladministration, financial misconduct and poor management a few days after deposing the state’s founding affidavit, says state attorneys were not interested in information that may contradict the state’s case that the lease was invalid.

“I noted during the drafting of the founding affidavit that the (public works) lawyers were not interested to consider information that may create doubt about their adopted approach that the lease in question violated Section 217 of the Constitution,” says Vukela in the affidavit.

He claims that he did not sign the founding affidavit, which forms the basis for the state’s case, “without difficulties”.

“I had to sign the affidavit as I was directed by the then minister of public works (Mahlangu-Nkabinde) to do so.

“In such circumstances, to be brave and refuse to sign the founding affidavit would have been regarded as being disloyal, insubordinate and would have conceivably also prejudiced my employment,” says Vukela.

Vukela accuses the state and Mahlangu-Nkabinde of not being “open” about the truth in their founding affidavit because she and state lawyers omitted details that there was no office space available in Pretoria at the time when the lease was negotiated with Shabangu.

He claims his suspension, soon after he had signed the affidavit, was an attempt by the state lawyers and the department to make him a “scapegoat” in the leases saga.

After his suspension Vukela filled a supplementary affidavit in November in which he contradicts the state’s case that the lease was invalid.

In that supplementary affidavit Vukela said it would not have made a difference had the lease gone out to tender because there was no office space available at the time.

He claimed that the only way to get office space at the time the lease was signed was to negotiate directly with the owner of the Middestad building, Shabangu.

But state attorney Moipone Mosidi has asked the court to throw out Vukela’s supplementary affidavit, arguing that Vukela was not authorised to file any papers without informing the department or the state attorney’s office.

However, Vukela has rejected Mosidi’s argument and he wants the court to allow him to withdraw his founding affidavit should the court agree to throw out his supplementary affidavit.

Vukela has submitted documents in court which prove that he had informed public works minister Thulas Nxesi about his intention to file the supplementary affidavit but there was no response.

The court will have to decide whether it accepts Vukela’s supplementary affidavit, which may jeopardise the state’s case and may see Shabangu walk away with over R600 million which police have put aside as a “contingency liability” should they lose the case.

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