Eastern Cape economic development, environmental affairs, and tourism MEC Oscar Mabuyane. File photo: ANA

East London - Eastern Cape economic development, environmental affairs, and tourism MEC Oscar Mabuyane has rejected allegations that he is "leading an attempt to capture" the provincial transport department.

Mabuyane was responding to an African News Agency (ANA) report on February 22 in which suspended transport department head Irene Mpolweni blamed him for her suspension and accused him of trying to "take over" the department.

Mpolweni was suspended on Friday by Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle in the wake of the South African Civil Aviation Authority's (SACAA) recent downgrade of Mthatha Airport from level four to level three because of safety concerns. The downgrade resulted in the suspension of flights by SA Airlink and SA Express. The SACAA restored the airport's level four rating in mid-February. Mpolweni alleged her suspension was a "smokescreen".

In a statement this weekend, Mabuyane rejected Mpolweni's "unfounded, baseless allegations as comical lies and an attempt to defame his character". Mabuyane called on Mpolweni to retract her statements and stop attempting to defame him.

"If Ms Mpolweni fails to retract her statement, MEC Mabuyane will be within his rights to find a legal remedy," the statement issued by his office said.

"Mabuyane has not and will not lead any attempt to capture any department or government institution. Just like many Eastern Cape residents and as a leader of a government department, he is concerned by the percolative negative effects the ongoing comical conflict between the premier, transport MEC Ms Weziwe Tikana, Ms Mpolweni, and some of her staff may have on service delivery."

Mabuyane's interest in any department of the provincial government was to see them spend the money they were allocated to develop the province prudently and create jobs, and he was not interested in "capturing a department as manufactured by Ms Mpolweni in her head", the statement said. 

ANA understands that Tikana overruled Mpolweni's earlier decision to suspend four senior officials in the department following the downgrade of the Mthatha Airport. According to Tikana's spokesman Unathi Binqose, the MEC had reviewed and lifted their suspension, which was within her powers.

African News Agency (ANA)