DA: We will take deputy finance minister extortion claims to the Public Protector

The Democratic Alliance intends to lodge a complaint with the Public Protector to investigate a report that Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo misused state resources in settling a personal matter.

amaBhungne on Sunday reported that the Hawks had conducted a sting operation to arrest a woman, Masondo's ex-lover, who has allegedly been extorting him for money. The amaBhungane report stated that Masondo, who is married with two children, had been offering the woman money to stay away from his family.

According to the report, although it is not known when Masondo approached the police or what charges he laid against the woman, the Hawks ultimately responded with an undercover operation in which the woman was arrested for accepting a bag of cash from men – who were supposedly representing Masondo – but who were really police.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi could not confirm the operation to Fin24 on Monday and referred queries to the National Prosecuting Authority. Gauteng NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane would not comment until the docket from the investigating officers was returned to the NPA, she told Fin24.

Neither Treasury nor the Presidency have responded to Fin24's request for comment on whether action will be taken by either of the authorities.

However, the DA has put out a statement making it clear that it intends to refer the incident to the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane for further investigation.

"If Masondo did in fact use his influence and abuse his position, it would be in breach of the Executive Members' Ethics Act, and he should be investigated for such. The DA will refer this incident to the Public Protector for further investigation," DA MP and finance spokesperson Dion George said.

"The Hawks are mandated to target 'serious organised crime, serious commercial crime and serious corruption' – none of which apply to the instance of a settlement agreement between individuals who shared a romantic affair," George said.

"If Masondo is indeed found guilty of abusing his office and state resources, he is not fit to be part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Executive, especially in the influential and important portfolio of finance," George added.

Ramaphosa appointed Masondo as deputy finance minister on May 29, 2019. In July he was quoted by financial publication Business Day as questioning whether interest rates – a mandate of the SA Reserve Bank – had been set at the right level. 

Following his remarks in May, both Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago issued a joint statement clarifying the independent roles of Treasury and the central bank.

In their joint statement, Mboweni and Kganyago emphasised that neither of the parties would interfere with each other's functions and that while the fiscal policy is within the ambit of Treasury, the monetary policy is within the ambit of SARB.

Read the full amaBhungane report here.

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