Shabangu: Court reserves judgment on ex-DGs affidavit

2012-05-21 12:57

The North Gauteng High Court has reserved judgment on whether to allow suspended Public Works acting director-general Sam Vukela’s controversial supplementary affidavit to be used in the case involving the department and businessman Roux Shabangu.

In the supplementary affidavit Vukela contradicts the department’s version that the R500 million police lease deal was invalid, arguing that the lease the department had signed with Shabangu was valid because there were many other similar leases which were signed in a similar fashion.

Vukela’s lawyer, Chris Erasmus SC, argued at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria today that the court should not throw out the supplementary affidavit just because it was filed by a person who was not party to the case.

If the court rules that Vukela’s affidavit may be used this may jeopardise the state’s case against Shabangu because in it Vukela claims that former public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and state attorneys disregarded crucial information which may have proved that the controversial police lease deal with Shabangu was in fact valid.

The matter was heard before Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann.

Vukela also argued that he had signed the founding affidavit – aimed at getting the court to nullify the lease – only because he was forced to do so “at gunpoint” by his former boss, Mahlangu-Nkabinde.

Soon after deposing of the department’s affidavit in September last year the department suspended Vukela on allegations of maladministration, financial misconduct and poor management.

“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 of the state’s case, “without difficulties”.

But the department’s lawyer, Jeremy Gauntlet SC, argued that Vukela’s contentions were “irrelevant, vexatious and scandalous” and that the filing of the supplementary affidavit was “an irregular step”.

“The supplementary affidavit was filed after its deponent (Vukela) was placed on special leave and is accordingly unauthorised by the party on whose behalf it was purportedly filed,” said Gauntlet.

But Erasmus argued that Vukela had in fact written to Mahlangu-Nkabinde and her replacement, Thulas Nxesi, on more than four occasions informing them of his intention to file the papers. There was no response.

Gauntlet also argued that Vukela no longer had any interest in the case and he was not party to the proceedings after his suspension and questioned his motives for filing such an affidavit.

“The mere fact that Mr Vukela seeks no order in the main proceeding, and cannot lawfully benefit from the validity or invalidity of the lease, confirms that his purported step in the substantive application – to which he is a stranger – is irregular,” said Gauntlet.

Gauntlet and Erasmus agreed that the steps taken by Vukela to file a supplementary affidavit as a non-party to the case – and merely a witness – was unprecedented.

Vukela has accused the department 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.

In the supplementary affidavit Vukela said it would for this reason not have made a difference had the lease gone out to tender.

He claims 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.

City Press understands that another avenue may be available to Vukela to file the papers as a friend of the court if the court decides to disregard the supplementary affidavit.

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