Axed Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku has accused the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) of going behind his back to access his colleagues’ emails and improperly interviewing his adviser to boost its case against him.
Masuku has already filed a court application seeking to overturn the SIU’s findings against him, which led to his removal from his position by Premier David Makhura.
Masuku argued that the SIU’s findings lacked both factual and legal substance, and employed the wrong sections of the Public Finance Management Act and the Constitution in apportioning blame to him for his handling of the procurement of personal protective equipment in the province.
The SIU found that Masuku had not exercised oversight in his department during the pandemic and that, even though he had been alerted to irregularities in the procurement process, he had failed to act.
In a strongly worded letter to the SIU, Masuku’s attorney, Mojalefa Motalane, expressed “grave concern and our client’s disappointment at the SIU’s misuse of its authority, unprofessional, unethical and unbecoming conduct, particularly taking into account the fact that the SIU is an institution which is entrusted with crucial and wide investigative powers”.
Motalane wrote that the SIU was abusing the proclamation allowing it to investigate the looting of Covid-19 funds to “unlawfully solicit information to buttress its opposition to our client’s application, which application is pending”.
The attorney declared that the abuse of the proclamation had commenced with an email from the SIU’s project manager of investigations, Lorinda Adlam, dated November 6, allegedly requesting access – as a matter of urgency – to the electronic devices of Masuku’s former chief of staff David Maimela and his adviser, Zolela Ngcwabe.
Motalane had since written to Adlam, asking her not to request access to electronic devices, as there was a pending high court application challenging the SIU’s findings.
He argued that the belated attempt to get further information from Masuku smacked of a “fishing expedition”. “The information ought to have been procured by the SIU prior to the findings contained in the letters impugned by the application,” he wrote.
He also submitted that Ngcwabe had been invited to an interview with the SIU under false pretences.
“We have also been furnished with two draft confirmatory affidavits that the SIU wants Ngcwabe to sign in support of its opposition of our client’s urgent application. It is clear from these draft confirmatory affidavits that the SIU wants Ngcwabe to support its version in our client’s pending application.”
He accused the SIU of belatedly seeking to solicit a version from Ngcwabe when it had already made findings about her involvement.
“The SIU appears to have placed the cart before the horse. It ought to have conducted these investigations before making the damning findings contained in the letters of September 18 and October 1.”
Motalane requested the SIU to desist from unlawful conduct, which he described as unethical, unprofessional and amounting to an abuse of power.
He threatened to use the information that pointed to such unlawful conduct to motivate for a punitive costs order and appropriate censure of the SIU by the court.
The matter will be heard in court in January.
Masuku landed in trouble when it was discovered that a personal protective equipment tender had been awarded to a company belonging to Thandisizwe Diko, the husband of presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko and a friend of the Masuku family.
Masuku has asserted he was not involved in procurement processes and left these to officials in his department.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said they would not give blow-by-blow commentary on an ongoing investigation, especially because the matter was also before court.