The arrest of former North West finance MEC, Wendy Nelson, has been widely linked to the dubious appointment of the health department head who sealed the controversial R180 million Gupta-linked Mediosa contract.
Some commentators saw the arrest as “chickens coming home to roost” for those who were involved in the alleged widespread looting and corruption that almost collapsed the province.
Nelson, who was hand picked by Supra Mahumapelo as acting premier while his future as premier hung in the balance, was released on R20 000 bail on Friday after her arrest on fraud charges and subsequent appearance in the Mmabatho Regional Court in Mahikeng.
The Hawks provincial spokesperson Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso said Nelson was “arrested following investigations into allegations pertaining to an irregular appointment of a senior official in the health department in 2014”.
Rikhotso would not give any further details on the case. She said yesterday that the second suspect in the case was expected to hand himself in to the police on Monday. However, sources in the provincial government were adamant that there could only be one such irregular appointment, the highly publicised employment of Thabo Lekalakala as the health department head.
He was suspended but later got it overturned by a court. He has not been able to return to work due to employees at the provincial head office protesting whenever he reports for duty. They have made it clear they do not want to work under him. The alleged irregularities of his appointment and his involvement in the Mediosa contract were cited as reasons for his suspension.
He is, however, not off the hook yet as his diciplinary action was still pending. City Press has previously reported on how the portfolio committee on health and social services last year questioned Lekalakala’s appointment. It emerged during one of the meetings that Lekalakala indicated in his application that he was a chief director at national level, one of the requirements for the post, when he never held that position. This alone, committee members as well as opposition parties and unions in the province, said should have disqualified him from being shortlisted.
Nelson’s alleged involvement
Lekalakala had applied for the health department accounting officer post. City Press has seen a letter in which the then MEC of health, Magome Masike, wrote to Mahumapelo, with a list of people he preferred to interview Lekalakala. Masike indicated he would chair the interview panel, but this was overturned by Mahumapelo who named Nelson instead.
In the end, Lekalakala was recommended for the position. Sources, including senior politicians in the province, said Masike was later rendered a powerless MEC. A letter dated March 12 2015 from Mahumapelo, informed Masike that Nelson would “take over the financial responsibilities of your department with the aim of restoring financial management discipline”.
“It seemingly went beyond that. Masike could not even chair an interview panel which would recommend an accounting officer for his department, Nelson did. We cannot now really say the financial control shift aimed at improving financial situation actually worked if we look at all the alleged corruption, fraud and maladministration cases, including the Mediosa saga that took place under Lekalakala and Nelson’s watch,” an ANC member of provincial legislature said.
Lekalakala’s fingerprints on Mediosa
The Hawks previously confirmed that they were investigating the dubious Mediosa contract. The Gupta-linked company was appointed to run mobile clinics in rural areas in the North West, charging more than R900 per patient for health screening without providing any medication.
So far there is nothing that directly links Nelson to the awarding of the contract, apart from the fact that she controlled the health department budget. It remains to be seen if her arrest and that of the second suspect who is expected to hand himself in, will lead to more arrests related to the alleged looting, corruption and maladministration in the province.
Rikhotso confirmed that the Hawks were still investigating the Mediosa case. She said there were other health department cases also being probed.