FILE PICTURE: Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
FILE PICTURE: Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

EXCLUSIVE: Gwede Mantashe’s alleged plot to nail Ace Magashule backfires

By Willem Phungula, Thabo Makwakwa Time of article published Jul 21, 2021

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DURBAN - MINERAL Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s alleged plot to “finish off” the embattled suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule by linking him to an alleged irregular Free State Treasury IT tender has backfired.

Central Lake Trading, the company that Mantashe accused of doing substandard work for the department, has threatened to go to court if he does not review his decision to appoint a forensic investigation to probe how it was awarded the tender.

The company installed software for a nuclear build for the department in 2016 when it was still known as the Energy Department. In the Daily News’ previous story on May 21, Mantashe justified the appointment of the new forensic company to investigate allegations of irregularities in the awarding of the tender to Central Lake Trading, although there was a report by Vernitos Consulting that found no wrongdoing.

In documents seen by the Daily News, Central Lake Trading’s attorney, Nike Pillay Incorporated, wrote to Mantashe on May 28, 2021 informing him that the company was considering preparing a court application to review Mantashe’s decision to launch the new forensic investigation based on his statement that the company did not do its job properly.

Secondly, the company wanted Mantashe to review his decision to appoint SNG to conduct the new forensic investigation based on a “predetermined outcome” as alleged by the whistle-blower in the May Daily News article.

“Set aside any report from SNG that may contain adverse findings against our client, on the basis that our client’s right to just administrative action, as contained in section 33 of the Constitution, would have been violated. This action will be founded upon the whistle-blower’s allegations in the story published by IOL (and the Daily News),” read the letter.

Mantashe denied knowledge of the letter and accused the Daily News of wanting him to run the department through it, but the legal firm director Nike Pillay confirmed to the Daily News on Monday that his firm, representing Central Lake Trading, wrote to the department. The Daily News had published a story about Mantashe’s alleged plot to “finish off” embattled Magashule after it exclusively received a letter from the whistle-blower who claimed to have inside information about it. The letter had been directed to President Cyril Ramaphosa where the whistle-blower asked the president to intervene and prevent the abuse of state resources by Mantashe and his officials to fight party internal battles.

The source said the department had appointed SizweNtsalubaGobodo (SNG) Grant Thornton, to initiate a forensic investigation into the R171 million tender awarded to Central Lake Trading in 2016, despite the department having a report done by Vernitos Consulting cc, which found no wrongdoing. The Daily News has also learnt that after the publication of the first story, SNG apparently decided to withdraw from the tender process after learning it was being used and its report had been predetermined. Attempts to get comment from SNG’s chief executive officer Victor Sekese were unsuccessful.

According to the whistle-blower, known to the Daily News, the intention was to implicate Magashule, who the report would find failed to prevent corruption while still the Free State premier. The source said the energy department wanted a nuclear build that would result in the construction of two nuclear energy plants, which the energy department would oversee as co-ordinator.

Instead of issuing a tender, the department apparently learnt that the Free State Provincial Treasury was already working with an IT firm doing similar work. It then requested the same company to do the job for it. The department tender was found by the auditor-general (AG) to be irregular, which the department disagreed with. It then appointed Vernitos Consulting cc to review the AG’s report. The company finished its work on May 29, 2019 and found no wrongdoing.

Daily News

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