30/03/2015. Public protector, Thuli Madonsela during a media briefing held at her offices in Hillcreast. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi
30/03/2015. Public protector, Thuli Madonsela during a media briefing held at her offices in Hillcreast. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Protector releases report on food parcels for votes claim

By African News Agency Time of article published May 5, 2016

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Pretoria – Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released two of her reports on the investigations into the alleged conflation between party and the state regarding the Free State provincial government’s Operation Hlasela and the allegations of irregular distribution of South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) food parcels by the then African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President.

Madonsela told the media on Thursday that her investigations into whether the Free State government abused state resources to advance the election campaign of the ANC during the 2011 municipal elections, found “no conclusive evidence” showing abuse or misuse of state resources to advance the party’s electoral campaign.

However, the Public Protector said evidence in the investigations revealed that at the time the complaint arose there were two Hlasela initiatives – one called Operation Hlasela which was an official state-funded service delivery accelerating vehicle of the Free State Government driven by Premier Ace Magashule, and the other initiative funded by private individuals and civil servants and civil society entities called, Hlasela Fund, which was later renamed Friends of the Free State with programmes branded Friends of the Poor.

According to Madonsela’s report, the private Hlasela initiative openly endorsed the ANC’s electoral campaign and had a truck driving around during the 2011 local government election period encouraging people to “Vote ANC”.

Nevertheless, the Public Protector said state platforms and communications resources were used to market Operation Hlasela without clearly distinguishing the two, because their marketing and branding were indistinguishable.

“Although no state funds were used for the Private Hlasela initiative, state platforms and communications resources were used to advertise and laud Operation Hlasela without distinguishing between the government’s Operation Hlasela and the ANC Manifesto-endorsing Private Hlasela Fund, whose benefits to the ANC, in terms of free publicity and skewed implications for electoral fair play cannot be reasonably denied,” said Madonsela.

She further said that other political parties and independent candidates were prejudiced by the existence of the duplicate Hlasela initiatives and that it cannot be said that the private Hlasela initiative had not benefited from the shared branding and free advertising of the government’s Operation Hlasela at state expense.

On whether SASSA had organised the Heinz Park and Philippi event in Cape Town in December 2009 where former ANCYL President Julius Malema distributed SASSA-purchased food parcels and pledged a R100 000 SASSA statutory grant to a prominent ANC member, Rossie Classe, the Public Protector found that the ANCYL organised the event, not SASSA or the former minister of Social Development, Edna Molewa, as it had been alleged.

However, Madonsela found that the food parcels were not purchased but sourced by SASSA and that Malema did distribute these SASSA food parcels.

According to the Public Protector, although the food parcels were not bought but sourced by the agency, the food parcels became state resources and distributing them at a political party event constituted abuse of state resources.

“The conduct of SASSA and its officials in distributing state purchased food parcels at a political party event and allowing a leader of a political party who does not work for government to distribute such food parcels was inconsistent with the provisions of section 195 of the Constitution and accordingly constitute abuse of state resources and maladministration.”

The Public Protector said that taking account of the lapse of time, appropriate remedial action on the SASSA matter was to ensure that the department (Social Development) and the agency (SASSA) develops and circulates policy setting out a clear separation between the state and party activities in all their entities at all times and all employees were to be made aware of this policy.

African News Agency

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