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Kimberley - The ANC has come out in defence of Premier Sylvia Lucas, saying that she is the subject of a smear campaign following allegations that she splashed out on fast food and groceries to the value of R53 159 within 10 weeks of assuming office.
It was reported that Nando’s, Spur, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mike’s Kitchen, Wimpy, Steers, Ocean Basket in Kimberley, Pretoria, Williston and Johannesburg were some of the outlets where she swiped her government credit card to satisfy her hunger.
Lucas on Monday declined to comment and referred all inquiries to her spokesman.
ANC provincial secretary, Zamani Saul, said there was nothing wrong with Lucas’s expenditure.
“Not only is she human, she spends all day and long hours into the night in meetings and is entitled to make use of the credit card. She provides refreshments to officials and stakeholders who are attending these extended meetings. It would be impossible to ring up a bill for her personal use alone. Lucas also travels the length and breadth of the Province and attends meetings in small towns where she is allowed to nourish herself.”
He added that this was a witch-hunt and an attempt to blackmail the premier.
“Malicious forces are trying to cast Lucas in a bad light when she is just three months in office.”
Saul said he did not believe that she had used the government credit card for any ANC-related work.
Cosatu provincial secretary Anele Gxoyiya said it had to be determined through an investigation if any wrongdoing had taken place, before coming to any conclusions.
He stated that while Cosatu was against any form of corruption, the federation had to be careful about presuming the facts.
“We first need to establish the facts such as whether groceries were bought for herself or for a poor household or if she used the credit card to entertain dignitaries and guests.”
Spokesman for the Office of the Premier, Monwabisi Nkompela, said that as an honest and upright person, the premier would never use the credit card for her personal gain.
“She has never bought liquor, jewellery, clothes nor had a party at the expense of the government. These expenses were incurred while she was on duty and on official government business.”
He added that an internal investigation would be conducted to determine and correct any wrongdoing that might have taken in the use of credit card facilities.
“In terms of the Ministerial Handbook and the National Treasury guidelines, members of the executive council are entitled to credit cards to use while performing their duties, bearing in mind that their turn-around times are short and very unpredictable.
“The premier has used this resource to respond to service delivery needs in performing her duties, because she travels through the length and breadth of this vast Province,” Nkompela said.
“Lucas makes use of the credit card when she is engaged on official business as well as meetings with people. As a hardworking individual, the premier has been on the road since she was appointed. All her programmes can attest to that.” He admitted that there was a “personal grocery” purchase that the premier had made with the credit card.
“She buys water and drinks when she travels,” he said.
“The Office of the Premier wishes to distance itself from the malicious rumours and allegations about Premier Lucas’s political background and her personal life.
“We regard this gossip stories as acts of wanting to assassinate her character and to bring her good name and the position she holds into disrepute. Lucas is assisted by support staff, who understand how the credit card has to be used and she has absolute confidence in their abilities and understanding of the Treasury regulations.”
Nkompela also pointed out that these false allegations cast aspersions not only on her, but also the executive council that she led.
“The allegations borders on serious defamation.”
He confirmed that Ramona Grewan, chief of staff at the Premier’s Office had since been deployed to another department.
“This is common practice when politicians gets reshuffled, to bring with them the people that they prefer to work with.” Lucas had blamed Grewan in a Sunday newspaper for the expenses although she (Grewan) indicated that she did not have access to the credit cards, nor had any powers to authorise any transactions.
She indicated that the credit cards were only supposed to be used for emergencies as meals and accommodation were funded by the Premier’s Office.
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