Suspended public works DG loses court bid

2012-06-28 19:20

Pretoria - An additional affidavit in a public works department application to set aside a police lease deal with businessman Roux Shabangu was denied on Thursday.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled the bid by suspended deputy director Sam Vukela, to slip additional information into the application, was vexatious.

Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann granted an order to the department striking out Vukela's affidavit. He deposed it in September last year in support of the department's application against Shabangu's company Roux Property Fund (Pty) Ltd.

The court ordered Vukela to personally pay the legal costs of the application, including the costs of the department's senior and junior advocates.

He said given the high profile of the matter, the personalities involved and the considerable amount of taxpayers' money at stake, the department's decision to employ two advocates had been prudent.

The department accused Vukela, who was put on special leave shortly after signing the founding affidavit, of acting "scandalously" when he tried to file an additional affidavit.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela - in her report on the lease debacle - recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Vukela.

She concluded he had acted in breach of his duties by directing the department to follow a negotiated process as a procurement strategy for the lease agreement.

Vukela claimed in his additional affidavit that former public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde had treated him "unfairly and unlawfully" by putting him on special leave.

He claimed Mahlangu-Nkabinde had "directed" him "at gunpoint" to sign the founding affidavit which did not place a full picture of all the facts before the court.

He insisted there were good reasons why tenders were not called for. Vukela said of the 2 950 lease agreements concluded by the department between 2008 and September 2011, 2 415 were negotiated and 226 put out to tender.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde accused Vukela of being in cahoots with Shabangu and said he was no scapegoat, but was the administrative head of the department, its most senior official, and its accounting officer at the time.

Judge Bertelsmann said it appeared Vukela believed he had been made the "sacrificial lamb", being led to the slaughter to atone for the errors of others in entering into the lease agreement.

"The applicant's case is clearly unanswerable. It is common cause that the deponent to the supplementary affidavit is not, cannot be, and does not intend to become a party to the principal proceedings.

"This status disentitles him from participation in the fray," the judge said.

"However much the allegations made in the 'supplementary affidavit' may be of interest to the parties to the dispute some, if not the majority, are clearly aimed at blaming the respective political heads of the applicant [the department] and their attorneys for the deponent's personal predicament, and are therefore indubitably irrelevant, vexatious and liable to be struck out on that ground."