How and why president's spokesperson Khusela Diko took a leave of absence

Khusela Diko.
Khusela Diko.
City Press
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko met with the president last week before he addressed the nation.  
  • It is understood that Diko told Ramaphosa that there was nothing untoward about her husband's business with the Gauteng health department.
  • Ramaphosa accepted her offer to take a leave of absence after it became clear that Diko was linked to Health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife Loyiso.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko offered to step aside before his address to the nation last Thursday, after allegations surfaced that her husband's company was awarded a Gauteng health department contract for personal protective equipment (PPE).

But Ramaphosa seemed to have been satisfied with Diko's explanation that her husband received the tender fairly. 

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

This changed when Diko's relationship with Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife Loyiso created a political storm in which even Ramaphosa's allies called for action to be taken against her.

The allegations emanated from a Sunday Independent report that a R125 million PPE contract was awarded to AmaBhaca King Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko - Khusela's husband. 

The president's spokesperson is also a member of the Gauteng's ANC's provincial executive committee. 

Potential conflict of interest

In her meeting with Ramaphosa last week she was said to have told the president that the moment she heard about the contract, she anticipated a potential conflict of interest and told her husband to walk away from the deal. 

It was only when Diko's relationship with Masuku and his wife was further exposed - and linked to the contract - that Ramaphosa was advised to accept her offer to step aside.

Two insiders told News24 that initially, Diko explained that while she was not involved in her husband's dealings, she immediately understood the perception of a conflict of interest. 

Diko was said to have indicated, in her meeting with Ramaphosa last week, that the Sunday Independent report was an effort to settle scores against her politically and would be used to tarnish the president's name. 

The insider said:

She made a presentation that everything was above board and she advised her husband to pull out. The president was advised that he couldn't act against her because she is not the one under investigation.

When Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Thursday evening, he took a hard line against Covid-19 corruption, announcing a Special investigating Unit proclamation to investigate "Covid-19 corruption".

He also announced a co-ordinating structure of all law enforcement units to effectively deal with corruption linked to procurement amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Ramaphosa did not mention Diko and the allegations against her husband and the Gauteng Department of Health. 

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

A well-placed source said the information about the close proximity of Diko and her husband to the Masukus made it unavoidable for her to step aside.

"You cannot have a spokesperson to the president who, every time she talks, is asked about her own allegations," the source said. 

The person said that allegations that the money from the tender was said to support Loyiso Masuku's political ambitions of becoming Johannesburg mayor were "unavoidable".

Loyiso is a member of the mayoral committee in the City of Johannesburg.

A third source said Diko had made it easier for Ramaphosa by suggesting, on her own, that she should step aside, and that the political fallout made it difficult for him to have her remain in office. 

The Presidency announced that Tyrone Seale would act in her place.

Efforts to get comment from Diko and acting spokesperson Seale were unsuccessful. These will be added should they be received.

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