Cape Town - Western Cape legislature speaker Masizole Mnqasela (DA), who has been fingered by whistle-blowers in allegations of corruption relating to travel and entertainment allowance claims, has said he will not be stepping down in the face of calls to do so from his own party, the DA.
This follows the handover on Friday to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) by the DA of documents containing protected disclosures by the whistle-blowers.
On Saturday it emerged that the anonymous whistle-blowers had last week approached Premier Alan Winde in his capacity as the leader of the DA provincial caucus to report the allegations and that Winde requested them to make formal submissions, backed by supporting evidence.
Apart from escalating the matter to the Hawks, the DA has also reported the matter to its Federal Legal Commission (FLC) for urgent investigation.
Mnqasela said he felt he had been ambushed when he first heard about the issue on Thursday during a visit to Winde on unrelated matters and found members of the DA Federal Legal Commission (FLC) and DA interim provincial leader Tertius Simmers waiting for him with the allegations.
Pressed about whether he would be stepping down, Mnqasela said: “I am not a thief. I am not a criminal. My record of public service speaks for itself.”
He said he had not been charged with anything and there was nothing that would warrant stepping aside but he was committed to cooperating with the investigation and to ensuring that nobody is intimidated in the process.
Simmers said the DA would follow its internal disciplinary processes “with deliberate speed to ensure accountability,” while respecting Mnqasela’s right to submit his defence in the matter.
Reached for comment, Winde’s spokesperson Cayla Murray said: “The Office of the Premier is unable to provide comment on this particular matter, as it relates to action taken by Alan Winde in his capacity as DA caucus leader. Queries for response in this capacity should be referred to the DA.”
Party spokesperson Richard Newton said the FLC was “deeply concerned about these developments ”and would investigate within the mandate of the DA’s constitution“.
He said the DA had a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, and when evidence-based allegations arise, it holds its office bearers to account, without fear or favour.
Meanwhile, leader of the official opposition in the legislature Cameron Dugmore (ANC) said the issue between the speaker and the DA was related to that party’s “leadership war” and was impacting negatively on governance of the province.
He said he would ask the speaker for an urgent meeting of the legislature’s multi-party leadership forum to clarify the situation as members needed to understand the implications of the situation where the DA was fighting its own speaker.
“Winde is not in control and no doubt he is the weakest premier ever. No government can survive if the centre does not hold.”
He said Winde must respect the legislature’s processes and that as members of the legislature the premier and Simmers must act in accordance with the code of conduct.
“Without wanting to go into the substance of the allegations, the ANC wishes to reiterate that the DA is not immune from fraud and corruption and would therefore welcome any investigation, especially by law enforcement agencies.”
Freedom Front Plus MPL Peter Marais said: “It seems obvious that the DA has a secret political demolition squad parading as untouchable whistle-blowers. A type of English Broederbond whose identities are never to be made public.”
Marais said the anonymous whistle-blowers had taken on former MEC Albert Fritz and were now focused on Mnqasela and the public has the right to ask why this was happening.
“The DA never takes disciplinary action against people like Mayco member JP Smith, or MP Natasha Mazzone who lied about their non-existing qualifications. Where is the consistency?”
Marais defended Mnqasela as a hard working, competent, people-oriented, head of the provincial legislature