The premier, his wife, ex-wife and a duo of untouchables

2010-07-11 10:42

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza is accused of dragging his feet on disciplining certain officials connected to him or his wife and ex-wife despite the ­existence of prima facie evidence of wrongdoing.

Advocate Hugh Mbatha, manager of Ehlanzeni District Municipality, and suspended public works head Priscilla Nkwinika have earned stripes as untouchables despite separate forensic ­reports implicating them in corruption worth R500 million.

Mabuza’s attitude has angered some of his comrades in the ANC and government, but they have been afraid to raise the matter.

At the centre of Mabuza’s ­apparent disinterest in these cases are his wife, Nonhlanhla Patience Mnisi, and his customary ex-wife, Ruth Funi Silinda.
Mnisi’s business associate, Pasqa Africa director Izak van der Walt, has been doing business at Ehlanzeni for years. His latest Ehlanzeni tenders are for the new three-storey offices worth R205 million and the R20 million Fifa Fan Fest at Bergvlam High School in Mbombela.

On the other hand, Silinda’s Lumkani Construction and Lumekani General Trading have been irregularly awarded tenders in Nkwinika’s department worth about R280 million.

A provincial executive committee and legislature member who spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity said: “Nothing will ever be done about these two. Instead, those who may dare question the premier’s ­passive attitude will be asking for their political careers to be ­destroyed.

“It is more than a year since Nkwinika was supposedly suspended but no feedback has been given to government structures.”

Besides a damning 2007 forensic audit report, Mbatha has been accused of massive corruption by the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) relating to the district’s offices, failure to account for use of state funds and irregular staff appointments.

Samwu decided to bypass the province after its complaints were “ignored” and turned to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka instead. Shiceka’s office has confirmed that an investigation was launched.

Samwu provincial secretary Kgokedi Mphahlele said: “We knocked on every door in the provincial government but we were ignored. The reality is that there are untouchables. It is clear there is a case to be investigated at Ehlanzeni, but no one is ­prepared to act. It is shocking.”

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Norman Mokoena said he was monitoring the situation and had asked Ehlanzeni council for a response to the allegations. However, Mokoena only submitted the questions to Ehlanzeni last week while Samwu approached Shiceka’s office in April and his department before then.

Mabuza’s spokesperson, Mabutho Sithole, declined to comment on the allegations against Mbatha or his personal relationship with the premier, saying it was council or cooperative governance and traditional affairs’ matter.

When a forensic report implicating Nkwinika was released about a year ago, Mabuza redeployed her to his office as deputy director-general responsible for micro-policy and planning, and only suspended her following an outcry about the “promotion”.

Thereafter, Mabuza appointed a commission of inquiry into the allegations. Its findings and recommendations have not been released to the public or the Select Committee on Public Accounts, which was the first to question Nkwinika’s complicity in tender irregularities.

Sithole said Nkwinika and some public works officials fingered in tender irregularities were charged, but details would be made public after the disciplinary process. The commission’s recommendations, said Sithole, would be submitted to the National ­Prosecuting Authority once the “internal processes have been completed”.

SACP provincial secretary Bonakele Majuba said the party would march against the escalating corruption rate in Mpumalanga after the World Cup.
“Our standpoint is that allegations of corruption must be ­investigated to clear the suspects’ names if they were wrongly accused, and to ensure the guilty ones are dealt with. There are only a few individuals tarnishing everyone’s image and they should be exposed.”

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