Guns out for Bandile Masuku as pressure mounts for David Makhura to act

Gauteng MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku. (Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
Gauteng MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku. (Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
  • The ANC and its alliance partners in Gauteng have called on Premier David Makhura to act on the back of a fresh tender corruption scandal at the health department.
  • This as Makhura and Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku were summoned by the ANC in Gauteng over the matter.
  • This has resulted in organisations like Sanco calling for Masuku to step aside just like his predecessor, Qedani Mahlangu.

There have been growing calls within the ANC in Gauteng and its alliance partners for Premier David Makhura to act more decisively against corruption, with some calling for Health MEC Bandile Masuku to step aside, even in the middle of a health crisis.

The health department has been embroiled in corruption claims, with the Sunday Independent, over the past two weekends, reporting on the awarding of a personal protective equipment contract of R125 million to the Amabhaca king, Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, who is the spouse of President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, who also sits on the ANC's provincial executive committee.

Masuku's wife, Loyiso Masuku, who serves as the City of Johannesburg's MMC for group corporate and shared services, is also linked to the claims through her close relationship with the president's spokesperson.

The calls come as Diko takes a leave of absence from all government roles and as the Special Investigations Unit meets with Makhura following the conclusion of investigations into earlier corruption claims at the Department of Health.

READ | President's spokesperson Khusela Diko takes leave of absence in face of PPE procurement scandal

South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in Gauteng said Makhura, who is also chairperson of the ANC in the province, had to follow examples already set when it came to dealing with serious allegations being made against those deployed to government positions.

"We are not saying he is guilty; we are saying Masuku's predecessor also had dark clouds over her head and was asked to step aside so investigations can be conducted fairly," said Sanco Gauteng chairperson Chris Malematja.

He was referring to Qedani Mahlangu, the former health MEC who was hauled before the provincial integrity commission for her role in the Life Esidimeni tragedy, which resulted in the death of at least 144 psychiatric patients after they were transferred from Life healthcare institutions to several unlicensed NGOs.

Malematja said Ramaphosa even suspended Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams after she violated lockdown regulations as he understood her actions were counter-intuitive.

He added the only way Makhura could make true on his promise of clean governance in Gauteng depended on how the graft claims were handled, insisting this had the potential to adversely affect both the provincial government and ANC.

While he acknowledged the claims did not directly link the MEC to the tender awarded to Diko, Malematja said there seemed to be a lot of corruption happening in his department and as the political head, he had to take the fall.

He said:

His role is not ceremonial, it's to oversee the department and ensure clean governance. Worst thing is, this involves his family and his friends.

Malematja, who praised Masuku's handling of Covid-19 in the province, said action was required in spite of the health crisis currently unfolding.

"The guy is young, energetic and hands on but that doesn't justify corruption, he is not special and can be replaced."

Action 

Sanco's calls for action were echoed by the ANC Youth League in the province, with its chairperson, Matome Chiloane, saying it wanted action from the premier.

"He has been consistently acting when these sort of things come up, think about the IT contract when Covid-19 started, he was hands on and now we feel he is not doing the same."

Chiloane said the league wanted clarity on a few issues, including details of people who won contracts from the Department of Health, whether proper procurement processes were followed and if there was undue influence.

"Our view is that the accounting officer is the MEC, the relationships are neither here nor there. The MEC owes us answers. He is responsible and must be the focus."

ALSO READ | Gauteng Health MEC denies involvement in PPE procurement corruption

He dismissed links to Masuku's spouse and claimed from some quarters she was "forceful" and at fault for awarding the tender to her friend's husband.

"The media is shifting blame, it cannot be like that. He must answer, he has been performing very well since the pandemic started, we have no issues with him as a person but when corruption is unfolding in your department, we can't keep quiet with such allegations and while people are dying,” said Chiloane.

"Someone must be arrested and that's where we leave it."

He argued this had nothing to do with politics, dismissing those who claimed Masuku was embroiled in the saga due to his wife's regional ambitions ahead of the ANC's leadership conference next year.

READ | ANC Gauteng to meet with Makhura, Masuku over covid-19 corruption claims

Numerous insiders, including from Masuku's office, said they were confused by the narrative he had done something wrong, insisting he was not involved in the procurement processes.

"We are trying to piece together what is actually going on," one source told News24.

An ANC insider from Gauteng called for both Masuku and the president's spokesperson to be sacked.

Clumsy

"They are clumsy. Some of us are just angry because of how clumsy this has all been. Why couldn't they have figured out another way to do this," the insider said.

A national executive committee (NEC) member, weighing in on the matter, said the department should not have waited two weeks to respond, saying hiding behind the SIU was problematic.

The NEC member, without defending any of those linked to the claims, added ANC deployees at national, provincial or even local government were often blamed for actions of officials who had nothing to do with the party.

The insider said:

I don't think ministers, MECs, premiers or even mayors know who the top 20 managers are in their department, civil servants aren't aligned to the ANC, they are not pursuing the ANC's vision.

On Monday, ANC Gauteng spokesperson Bones Modise told News24 the party had requested a meeting with the premier and MEC to discuss the allegations and a way forward.

The SACP and Cosatu, which held a bilateral conference over the weekend, said they were troubled by claims of corruption, again calling for decisive action.

"We are deeply convinced that such prompt and swift action against those faced with overwhelming evidence, is the only way to restore the battered confidence of the working class and revolutionary people in our movement," they said in a statement on Monday.

The two organisations added they were concerned about attempts to turn the former liberation movement into "trading entities" and instruments of rampant profiteering.

"A foreign tendency they were never established to pursue in the very first place. This happens through toxic and dodgy tenders that finally find their ways into succession and political contest in the movement."

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