Johannesburg - Luvo Makasi, the man accused of having romantic relations with Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, has described a report labeling him as her "Ben 10" as defamatory and degrading.
Speaking to reporters at a briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Makasi said his relationship with Mokonyane was strictly professional and that his role in her department was in his capacity as an attorney who provided legal advice.
"My interactions with Minister Mokonyane and the Department of Water and Sanitation have always been [of a] professional nature, and remain of that nature.
"I categorically and clearly state that this allegation – of a romantic relationship, which has seen the minister relinquishing her executive authority to myself – is false and a blatant lie intended to defame, malign and discredit both myself and the honourable minister," Makasi said.
Earlier this week, the City Press reported that Mokonyane was allowing Makasi to "call the shots" in her department, to the extent that he had given instructions to her director general.
The publication quoted seven highly placed sources, including senior officials, contractors and others close to Mokonyane, legal opinion, and a letter, in its report on Sunday.
The publication claimed the following:
- That two weeks ago, at a lodge in Irene, Pretoria, Makasi allegedly gave instructions to senior officials, including Director General Dan "Gorbachev" Mashitisho and chief financial officer Sifiso Mkhize;
- That Makasi and Thele Moema - Mokonyane’s special adviser - had met with officials at Limpopo water board Lepelle Northern Water, allegedly to discuss which companies should get tenders in water projects around that province;
- In the middle of last year, Makasi visited Polokwane Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng and allegedly issued instructions on who should get a stake in a R2.2bn water project the municipality is carrying out around the city;
- Boqwana Burns, the law firm of which Makasi is a director, was hired to give Lepelle Northern Water a legal opinion on the controversial R5bn Giyani Emergency Water Project;
- Department officials close to Mokonyane apparently ordered contractors to meet with Makasi "if they don’t want issues with their contracts";
- In his capacity as chairperson of the Central Energy Fund, Makasi has already written to Mokonyane asking if they can work together on hydroelectricity projects "and other renewable energy programmes which may even assist with water conservation" and;
- According to one official, "Luvo" and "Mama" were very close, adding: "They travel together; they are always together. They travelled together to Iran and New York."
Makasi confirmed that he had attended the meeting in Irene, saying he had been instructed by advocate Terry Motau, chairperson of an independent advisory panel which was conducting a due diligence exercise into the procurement processes of the department.
'I categorically deny the allegation'
Mokonyane was also present at the meeting, he said.
Masiki denied ever travelling to Iran or New York with Mokonyane.
"I have never travelled to Iran or New York in my whole life, let alone with Minister Mokonyane. I can even show you my passport," he said.
He also denied ever visiting Polokwane to issue instructions on who Nkadimeng should "get a stake in a R2.2bn water project" that the municipality was carrying out.
"I categorically deny the allegation contained in the article [that] I had travelled to Polokwane, in 2016 to meet with Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng.
"I did not at any time in 2016 travel to Polokwane."
He said the last time he was in the province was during the ANC’s 99th birthday celebrations back in 2011. The last time he was in Polokwane specifically, was when he was campaigning for the ANC Youth League in 2009, he said.
He also denied ever giving instructions to any official at the department of water and sanitation.
Makasi said he had been advised to consider all the remedies available to him and had decided to approach the Press Ombud.
However, claims about Makasi’s relationship were first made by EFF leader Julius Malema on Twitter earlier this month.
"Luvo Makasi is running the water affairs in this country, if you want to be paid or tender his the man 2 speak 2 otherwise u won't succeed," Malema tweeted on February 6.
He acknowledged Malema’s comments, but said the difference between the EFF leader and the publication was that he had not been given sufficient time to respond to the allegations.
"The difference is that we asked City Press for an opportunity to respond to them. City Press had an opportunity to get an answer from us."
Makasi said he suspected that the source of the "activity" around him stemmed from an "uncomfortable" legal opinion which he had given regarding the Giyani Water Projects.
"The problem started when we touched the Giyani project. The contract is irregular; it must be cancelled and be opened to tender processes again. Before that, nobody was bothered [about me], I think that is when I became a person of interest," he said.
The price of the contract was valued at about R96m. Makasi and his firm had raised issues about the contract.