Masuku’s reputation as a public office-bearer dented - judge
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Johannesburg - Former Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku may have a better chance at suing the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for defamation after his bid to overturn its findings fell flat on Monday.
North Gauteng High Court Judge Roland Sutherland dismissed Masuku’s bid to challenge a report by the SIU that led to his axing.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura sacked Masuku last year after an SIU report found he had failed in his duties as MEC during the procurement of Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) by his department.
The awarding of a multimillion-rand PPE contract was labelled dodgy when it was found that the contract was awarded to Royal Bhaca, a company owned by the late Nkosi Madzikane Thandisizwe Diko II, husband of Khusela Diko, the suspended spokesperson of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In his judgment handed down on Monday, Judge Sutherland said that Masuku’s reputation as a public office-bearer had been dented.
“Whether in the long run, his political career will suffer remains to be seen, but in the short term his political career has been clearly truncated.
“In the circumstances experienced by Dr Masuku, whose grievance is a shattered reputation, perhaps it could sensibly be asked whether he should be left to exercise a private law remedy for defamation rather than be entitled to utilise a public law remedy in the form of a review,” Sutherland noted.
In a press statement issued by Masuku’s legal representatives, Motalane Incorporated, he noted the judgment but specifically made mention that the court found that the SIU saw no crime committed by Masuku.
The statement read that Masuku “welcomed the conclusion that he is not accused of corruption or nepotism and that the so-called findings of the SIU were mere opinions that the Premier should not have relied upon to make any form of decision against him”.
Masuku’s statement adds that the judgment removed any doubt in the eyes of the public that he was involved in any PPE procurement or benefited financially.
“This has been the public perception and it is now put to rest,” the statement read.
His legal team said it was studying the judgment and would communicate an appropriate course of action.
The judgment was just as scathing toward Masuku as was the SIU report, in that he also found that Masuku was neglectful in his duties.
“The first aspect is that Dr Masuku was neglectful in his duties, as illustrated by his failure to attend to his e-mails, despite being in a critical leadership position. This conduct justifies an adverse inference about his lack of professionalism and lack of care in discharging his functions.
“His version given to the SIU was faithfully reproduced. What he is criticised for is not lying - his ignorance was taken at face value, despite the scepticism it fully deserved - but for neglect,” said Judge Sutherland.
He further criticised Masuku for being “deaf and blind” to the risks of alleged irregularities in his department and that he took no steps at all to lead and protect his department.
“When news of improprieties was brought to his attention, he was content to fob off the investigation to the internal auditors and take no steps to inform himself at all to assess the status quo and intervene urgently,” Judge Sutherland said.
Meanwhile, forensic investigator Paul O Sullivan said: “We do not expect he (Masuku) will ever face any criminal charges, as we are satisfied he was NOT involved in any criminality. We still stand by our report, 100%.”
He further added: “We were satisfied when presented with the facts that Dr Bandile Masuku did the best he could in trying circumstances. We found no evidence of unlawful activity on his part and remain satisfied that in the final analysis, he will be cleared of any wrong doing.”