Sorry S’bu, say car donors

2009-05-20 00:00

TRANSPORT Minister S’bu Nde-bele has returned the R1,14 million luxury vehicle he received as a gift from emerging contractors in the province on Saturday, and the contractors said they did not mean to cause Ndebele any harm.

Ndebele’s decision yesterday was welcomed by trade union Cosatu and opposition parties. He also returned the two cows he received from a Pietermaritzburg taxi association — after it was reported that President Jacob Zuma said he was entitled to keep the gifts.

“I wish to announce that after careful consideration of this matter and in discussions with my family, I have decided to voluntarily return the Mercedes-Benz S500 and the two cattle that I received from Vukuzakhe emerging contractors,” said Ndebele.

He said that he sent a letter to Zuma declaring the gifts, as required to by the code of ethics, and also informed ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe.

“I advised [Zuma] that I have received the gift of an S500 . . . and two cattle from Vukuzakhe emerging contractors in KwaZulu-Natal. After consultation with [Zuma] and the . . . ANC, who advise me to follow the procedures stipulated and after due consideration, I have nevertheless decided to return the gift to the Vukuzakhe programme,” said Ndebele.

He said he has suggested that the contractors dispose of this gift for the benefit of others participating in the emerging contractors programmes through the Construction Industry Development Board, and establish a training fund to assist other emerging contractors.

“I must indicate that this matter has created an unwelcome interruption and derailment of my programme as a newly appointed minister of Transport, as I have urgent matters in my portfolio to deal with,” said Ndebele.

“The executive code of ethics provide for disclosure to be made within 60 days and I have taken about 72 hours to bring the matter to an end.”

With preparations for the Fifa Confederations Cup to be held in 26 days, said Ndebele, the focus should be on ensuring that the trial run for the World Cup is successful and infrastructure upgraded.

Thatheni Zondi, owner of Thatheni Women’s Construction Company, one of the thousands of contractors that contributed money to buy the S500 for Ndebele, said the gift was not meant to cause harm to Ndebele and his family.

Zondi said that the contractors planned the event to honour Ndebele when he said that he was to retire from politics. “We did not know that the gift would cause so much attention for Ndebele and his family. We are feeling bad because this has put him in an awkward position,” said Zondi.

She said that some of the contractors have been asked whether the gift came from their own pockets.

“Yes, it did. We are able to make a living now and our lives are better because of the [Vukuzakhe] programme started by Ndebele. We did not know that one day we would own our business and have money,” she said.

Zondi said that they will decide on what to do with the gift once all those who contributed to its purchase have met.

Msunduzi Regional Taxi Council chairman Boy Zondi, who presented Ndebele with the two cows, declined to comment.

Cosatu hailed Ndebele’s decision to return the car. Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven congratulated Ndebele on his statesman-like decision.

“It was the right thing to do. Cosatu hopes that this decision will set a precedent and that all public representatives will, from now on, refuse to accept any such gifts from commercial companies, and thus remove any suspicion that they might have a conflict of interest in the allocation of tenders or any other state business,” said Craven.

The DA and Cope also showered Ndebele with praise

However, the DA’s national Member of Parliament Athol Trol­lip said that if reports are accurate that Zuma told Ndebele he need not return the car and ought just to declare it, this is very disappointing.

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