Minister Patricia de Lille Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Minister Patricia de Lille Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Minister De Lille lashes out at ANC MP over Beitbridge fence

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published May 11, 2021

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ANC whip in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) Mervyn Dirks vowed on Tuesday to play his oversight role over the executive.

This happened when Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille accused him of insinuating that she was the cause of corruption at the Beitbridge border post fence, among other things.

De Lille was leading her department to give an update on implementation of recommendations made by Scopa following their oversight visit to the Beitbridge border post last year.

During the meeting, the committee heard that suspended director-general Sam Vukela – who was earlier suspended in connection with the state funerals – has been added to the list of the implicated officials late last year.

De Lille’s special adviser, Melissa Whitehead, has been served with charges for her role on the controversial fence.

The committee was also told the hearing for members of the bid adjudication committee proceeded in March and that further testimony and cross-examination of witnesses would happen in June.

However, the disciplinary hearing for senior officials was postponed indefinitely after a legal representative of one of the officials launched a court application to review the directive, investigation report and the disciplinary inquiry.

Speaking in the meeting, Dirks said the consequence management was moving slowly, without any direction.

He said the Beitbridge border post fence saga started with an instruction that was issued by De Lille.

Dirks also said they had seen the letter instructing who should do what in connection with the border fence and Vukela had been by-passed when the instruction was issued.

“I am shocked that he is charged. I want to know why there is no politician held responsible for what took place there at Beitbridge,” Dirks said, adding that officials were being served with letters to face disciplinary hearings.

“I would like to see politicians held accountable. Politicians must be held accountable,” he added.

Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said they wanted consequence management to run its course. He said they did not derive comfort from the report provided by the department.

In her response, De Lille said her department had instituted an investigation into Beitbridge fence with the assistance of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) when red flags were raised.

She said Dirks should be patient because in terms of the proclamation signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa authorising a probe into the Beitbridge fence, the SIU would make its own recommendation.

“It is for the president to act on the recommendations.”

De Lille said it was misleading for Dirks to insinuate that her directive on the fence gave anyone in the department the right to be corrupt.

She also said she never benefited from the Beitbridge fence tender.

“I have got my own dignity. I will not allow anyone to insinuate that I was the cause of corruption,” De Lille said, adding that Dirks always raised the matter whenever there was a meeting.

“I have a right to protect my name and integrity,” she said.

After De Lille finished speaking, Dirks asked to be provided an opportunity to respond as he had not wanted to interrupt the minister with a point of order.

He said that at all times when he raised issues about Beitbridge, he never suggested De Lille benefited financially.

“Whether the executive wants to get emotional, I will play my oversight role at all times.”

Dirks also said there was nothing personal when he asked his questions.

“I believe there was no oversight played by the political head of the department after the directive went out. I will ask questions all the time. I will do so without fear,” he said.

POLITICAL BUREAU

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