Hlongwa’s ‘house of graft and lies’

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iol pic sa SS_Brian Hlongwa10 Independent Newspapers ANC chief whip Brian Hlongwa has the full confidence of Gauteng Premier David Makhura. Pictures: Paballo Thekiso

Johannesburg - The alleged corrupt former Gauteng MEC for health Brian Hlongwa has accused his “detractors” of using the media to taint his image - severely hurting his wife and children.

This was the only explanation given by Hlongwa in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature on Friday following an exposé by the Mail & Guardian on Friday linking him to a litany of fraud and corruption allegations while still an MEC.

Hlongwa was not replying to the Mail & Guardian but to the actual whistleblower and DA MPL Jack Bloom. On Friday, Bloom after reading the three separate stories linking Hlongwa to a series of fraudulent activities, asked Gauteng Premier David Makhura whether he would ask Hlongwa to step down.

Bloom asked the questions during the debate on the premier’s budget vote. While the paper extensively reported on the nature of the gross allegations against Hlongwa before the South Gauteng High Court sitting in Johannesburg - blew the whistle on him in April 2009. Hlongwa was elected MEC in 2006 and he served until 2009.

At the time, Bloom insinuated that the R7.2 million house which was occupied by Hlongwa was bought for him by companies doing business with the Health Department. Hlongwa was so irked by media reports then that he exclusively denied all allegations to another newspaper, The Sowetan.

During the interview with The Sowetan, he challenged Bloom to prove the allegations he made before the law and the public protector. He also downgraded the role of his political office saying to be an MEC of Health was for him a “service to the community”.

He also reportedly told the media that he did not do it for money because his businesses were making “10 times more than his salary as the head of the provincial Health Department. A few days before the 2009 national elections, ANC Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile forced Hlongwa to retract his comments - which he did.

After the 2009 national elections - he was demoted to be the ANC’s legislature’s chief whip - though also a high paying job - but Hlongwa was effectively removed from being part of the provincial cabinet.

In 2011, President Jacob Zuma signed a proclamation in which he ordered the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) to investigate acts of corruption and fraud while Hlongwa was in office.

On Friday, the Mail & Guardian reported that the National Prosecuting Authority lodged papers in the high court on Monday asking it to order the seizure of various companies and the forfeiture of certain assets linked to criminal activities it was probing.

According to the weekend paper, both the Hawks and SIU had submitted thousands of pages of evidence spanning contracts, e-mails, interviews and written testimony of more than 60 witnesses to support their claims.

In the report, Hlongwa and his “friend” and UK citizen Richard Payne - who won massive Health Department contracts - were reported to be the chief culprits. Payne is reportedly on holiday and the insinuation was that he was not likely to return to South Africa to face the music. The paper reported that Hlongwa was available to react to the allegations before publication.

Hlongwa was in the legislature on Friday when Bloom asked Makhura whether he would take action.

Instead, Hlongwa took the opportunity and replied, saying: “Indeed in 2006 until 2009, I was the MEC for Health. I take full responsibility for what had happened during that time. During that time, I lived with pain, anger and shame. I was tried, persecuted and sentenced in the media.”

He said his accusers continued to make similar allegations against him after he quit his political office even when no criminal charges were brought against him.

“Indeed justice delayed is justice denied,” he said. Hlongwa was adamant that the main culprits in the allegations against him was his family particularly his children.

Makhura said he would await due processes before making a decision. He expressed full confidence in Hlongwa.

- Saturday Star

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