Hawks quizz premier, but he’s not a suspect

2010-09-10 00:00

KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize was yesterday questioned by the Hawks as a possible witness in connection with the R200 million fraud case against several state officials and businessmen.

The premier is not a suspect in the case, but, said his spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya, he was questioned because he was the political head of the Finance and Economic Development Department when the crime took place.

“Premier Mkhize had a fruitful meeting with senior members of the Hawks concerning the investigations into the alleged corruption surrounding the procurement of equipment from Intaka … The Hawks stated categorically that the premier was not a suspect,” Sibiya said.

He said the premier emphasised his commitment to fight corruption in the provincial government and offered his full co-operation.

“To this end he has agreed to make a statement concerning his knowledge of the matter when he was the MEC. The Hawks have requested that the premier refrains from giving detailed statements to the media as such may compromise their investigations, which are now at a sensitive stage.”

Mkhize’s interview with the Hawks comes days after the Sunday Times published a story hinting that Mkhize was implicated in the fraud and corruption case involving Intaka.

The newspaper said that as MEC for Economic Development, Mkhize wrote in July 2005 to then Local Government and Traditional Affairs MEC, Mike Mabuyakhulu, asking him for R43,2 million from the poverty alleviation fund to buy water purification equipment from Intaka. Intaka allegedly sold a plant valued at R420 000 for R4,9 million to the provincial Health Department. The KZN department spent R44 million on water purification plants procured from Intaka. In the article Mkhize said no instruction for illegal or criminal acts was given.

Ntombi Shabalala, the wife of suspended Ithala Group chief executive Sipho Shabalala (who at the time was HOD in the KZN Treasury), is one of the directors of Intaka. Sipho Shabalala is facing arrest in the case.

Mkhize called on individuals who may be approached to co-operate with the investigation.

Last month former senior Health Department officials Dr Busisiwe Nyembezi and Mdu Ntshangase were arrested in connection with the case, along with the current caretaker chief financial officer of the KZN Legislature, Sipho Buthelezi.

Others arrested in connection with the case are businessmen Gaston Savoi, Fernando Praderi, Nasano Romani, Donald Miller and Ronald Geddes.

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