EXPLAINER | What are the allegations against Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku?

 Gauteng MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku .(Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)
Gauteng MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku .(Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)
  • Trade union Cosatu and the EFF are calling on Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku to step aside. 
  • The Sunday Independent reported on a R125 million PPE tender allegedly irregularly awarded to an ANC-linked entrepreneur. 
  • Political commentators say Masuku's argument that he was not on the bid committee is irrelevant.

South Africa's largest trade union Cosatu and opposition party EFF have called on Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku to step aside, following corruption allegations.

The provincial health department has been embroiled in corruption claims after the Sunday Independent reported of an alleged irregular R125 million personal protective equipment (PPE) contract awarded to individuals with close ties to senior ANC officials.  

Since the report, the ANC's Gauteng leadership requested to meet with Premier David Makhura and Masuku to discuss the corruption allegations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, has also requested a leave of absence after being implicated in the corruption allegations. 

News24 looked at what the allegations against Masuku are, how he responded, and whether the allegations are part of a political agenda: 

What are the allegations against Masuku? 

Over the weekend, the Sunday Independent reported that a PPE contract of R125 million was awarded to Amabhaca King, Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, who is the spouse of the president's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, and who also sits on the ANC's provincial executive committee.

Amabhaca King reportedly charged inflated prices.

The Sunday Times reported that the transactions were reportedly flagged in an audit conducted by the provincial treasury into the spending of R2 billion on PPE by the Gauteng health department.

The Sunday Independent also made a link between the Diko family and Masuku, through his wife Loyiso, who serves as a member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for group corporate and shared services at the City of Johannesburg. 

Diko and Loyiso were reportedly bridesmaids at each other's weddings. 

Loyiso was set to benefit as the contract's money would be diverted for the ANC's regional conference, where she would be contesting the chairperson position. 

According to the Sunday Times, Diko and her husband maintained that the money was never paid to his company and the contract was never finalised.

How did Masuku respond to the allegations? 

In a statement on Monday, Masuku denied that he was involved in influencing irregular Covid-19 related procurement processes.

The MEC said following the emergency procurement processes undertaken since Ramaphosa's declaration of the national state of disaster in mid-March, he requested that the administration of the department must observe good governance.

"I formally requested a forensic audit into Covid-19 procurement and... [Gauteng] Premier [David Makhura] subsequently requested the SIU to undertake this investigation. The SIU investigation commenced in May 2020 and the premier's office will announce the findings as soon as they become available.

The MEC said that, as a member of the executive council, he was not involved in, nor did he influence the department's procurement processes.

The processes of awarding contracts within the department rests entirely with the supply chain management function in finance, Masuku stated.

He said:

Throughout my career, I have always acted with the utmost integrity and conviction. I strongly refute any suggestion that Covid-19 procurement is being used as a means to raise funds ahead of ANC conferences.

Are the allegations a part of a political agenda? 

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga told News24 that Cosatu and the EFF might use this as a means for cheap political points-scoring, but that's a side issue to Masuku having a powerful position in state and his close friends being awarded bids. 

Mathekga said the MEC's argument that he wasn't on the bid committee does not really matter. 

"These relationships existed beforehand and he should have known that it would create a conflict of interest," Mathekga said.

"It is immaterial whether he was on the bid committee. Sufficient to say, he was entangled in the process, and the entanglement is to such an extent that it creates serious ethical concerns." 

Mathekga and North-West University political studies lecturer Piet Croucamp agree that the tender involving Masuku is a clear example of how the ANC's patronage network operates. 

READ | Cosatu, EFF call for Gauteng health MEC to step aside

Croucamp said it is ironic that the ANC's provincial executive committee (PEC) is now calling on Masuku to account, when they were likely highly aware of the tender beforehand. 

"No one in government, especially in senior positions, is appointed without the PEC's approval. The MEC was also highly likely recommended by the PEC before the appointment," Croucamp told News24. 

"The PEC, therefore, most likely knew about this tender and who it was going to before it was awarded. It forms part of the ANC's cadre capitalism system, where cadres are awarded tenders to channel money back into the party." 

Croucamp continued: 

Most tenders in-state are awarded to ANC cadres, and this incidence just made the news. It is simply how the ANC operates and sustains itself.

Croucamp said it was one of the reasons why Luthuli House, the ANC's headquarters, is currently having cash flow difficulties - because President Cyril Ramaphosa, through strengthening the auditor-general, reduced some of the kick-back networks. 

He said that Cosatu has an axe to grind with the state over the payment of staff increases expected in April, which were never realised, and would, therefore, seek to settle any political scores with the state.

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