‘Why single me out?’

2011-12-10 19:44

Controversial property mogul Roux Shabangu is on the warpath.

Shabangu, who is currently facing the prospect of having his multimillion-rand lease for the police’s Middestad building cancelled, is preparing to apply to the North Gauteng High Court early next year to have more than 2?400 public works leases cancelled.

He says these leases were concluded in the same way his was.

“This is not a threat. My lawyers are already working on the application,” said Shabangu, a former professional boxer.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Shabangu are now at loggerheads over the latter’s demand that Madonsela investigate the 2?415 leases that did not go out to tender but were “negotiated” directly with property owners.

Shabangu sent a report of an investigation he conducted into public works to Madonsela this week. He also sent it to President Jacob Zuma, Parliamentary Speaker Max Sisulu and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

In the report, Shabangu alleges that the department awarded leases worth an estimated R300?billion through negotiating directly with property owners.

The sheriff of the court delivered copies of the report to the different offices “to ensure that everyone received it”.

“You (Madonsela) have made certain findings against us but, likewise, politicians and the media have effected a substantial attack on us, discrediting us, but not honouring the principles of justice, fair comment, transparency and dealing with one on an equal basis,” Shabangu argues in the papers.

Madonsela has in turn announced she was investigating whether Shabangu and suspended acting public works director-general Sam Vukela, who has repudiated the basis of Madonsela’s findings against the Middestad lease in court papers he filed last week, had an “improper” relationship.

She said the probe was part of an investigation into a lease for the Independent Complaints Directorate office, negotiated with Shabangu’s company.

Vukela’s supplementary affidavit revealed that of the 2?950 leases issued by the department in the past four years, 2?415 did not go out to open tender.

The affidavit is part of an ongoing court application in which the department wants the Middestad lease nullified.

Madonsela has accepted Shabangu’s complaint and said she was conducting a “prelimenary” probe into the leases.

She rejected Shabangu’s claim that the Middestad lease was negotiated in the same manner as the other 2?415 leases.

“The leases were not negotiated in the same manner. All Mr Shabangu can allege is that these leases were negotiated. A court would have to look at the similarities as well as the differences in the awarding of the tender,” said Madonsela.

Zuma relied heavily on Madonsela’s probe into the Middestad lease when he suspended Police Commissioner Bheki Cele and Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.

Shabangu has welcomed Madonsela’s probe into the alleged improper relationship with Vukela.

Shabangu claimed Madonsela’s investigation into Middestad “prejudiced” his company, Roux Property Fund. He accused Madonsela of ignoring that awarding leases via a “negotiated process” was the norm in the department.

“We request that the Public Protector investigate the full spectrum of leases that were concluded on a negotiated process and potentially affected leases. Applying the same modus operandi that was followed in respect of (Roux Property Fund) will imply that the Public Protector must then also suspend all such leases pending the finalisation of such investigation,” reads the report.

Shabangu says 194 of the 266 leases signed in Pretoria alone were also concluded without an open tender process.

Shabangu claims this evidence demonstrates the procurement process followed for the Middestad lease was “in accordance with common practice within” the department.

Shabangu argues that even though Madonsela found the Middestad lease was not “cost effective” and that it was above the market rate for office accommodation in the Pretoria CBD, public works leased many other buildings at a much higher rental rate compared with Middestad.

He said the new OR Tambo building, which houses the international relations department, is being leased at R450 per square metre compared with Middestad’s R110 per square metre.

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