Will Ramaphosa act against Mabuyane over report he benefitted from funds meant for MaWinnie's memorial service ?
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Johannesburg - Presiden tCyril Ramaphosa has downplayed calls to axe his ally, Oscar Mabuyane, after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that the Eastern Cape Premier personally benefited from funds meant for the memorial services of Struggle icon Winnie Madikizela Mandela.
Mkhwebane found that Mabuyane benefited to the sum of R450 000.
Mabuyane has been a strong backer of Ramaphosa, winning the Eastern Cape provincial election – dubbed the festival of chairs in favour of the CR17 faction.
He was very vocal in calling for suspended ANC secretary general Ace Magashule to step aside following Magashule's arrest.
Mkhwebane also found that the Eastern Cape ANC also benefited R280 000, which was deposited into the party's bank account.
Speaking to journalists from the campaign trail, Ramaphosa poured cold water on Mkhwebane's findings, saying he had not seen the Public Protector's report and had only heard about it from the media.
Mkhwebane also found that Babalo Madikizela, who is now Public Works MEC, personally benefited R350 000 and the ANC benefited by R280 000 from the amount.
“The financial benefits that accrued to Mr Mabuyane, Mr Madikizela and the ANC raise a suspicion of a commission of criminal conduct in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 and/or Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.
“Accordingly this part of the investigation has been referred to the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI) of the SAPS,” Mkhwebane said.
The Public Protector said the investigation has “undeniably proven” that the allegations and complaints were largely of a criminal nature, and could not be executed fully by her office without bringing them to the attention of authorities charged with criminal investigation and prosecution.
“The issues investigated and the evidence obtained are accordingly, in terms of section 6(4)(c)(ii) of the Public Protector Act, referred to the head of the DPCI/Hawks of the SAPS for consideration of criminal investigation, with a view to prosecution.”
Mkhwebane also ordered the Speaker of the Mbizana Municipality, TD Mafumbatha, to take urgent steps to ensure that the municipality took the appropriate action, including the institution of disciplinary proceedings against municipal manager Luvuyo Mahlaka in connection with, and that of any other official involved in the procurement of, transportation services for the memorial service within 60 days of the issuing of the report.
The matter started when a secretary of an ANC branch in Limpopo, who is also a former leader of Cosas in the Vhembe district, wrote to the ruling party’s Integrity Commission (IC) asking it to probe Mabuyane.
Ernest Netshivhumbe wrote to the commission urging it to probe 2019 allegations that Mabuyane used R450 000 siphoned from financially struggling Mbizana Local Municipality to renovate his East London mansion.
In his letter to the commission, Netshivhumbe said the Eastern Cape businessman used as a front admitted that the money he paid to the company that renovated Mabuyane's home was siphoned from the municipality for work that was never done.
"(I) am urgently calling for the top 6 officials and the IC to rigorously investigate Cde Oscar Mabuyane for his role in mass looting of public coffers in the Eastern cape … I believe that if the IC investigate this vigorously theirs much evidence to force Cde Oscar to account fully (sic),” he wrote to the commission.
Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Sonwabo Mbananga, said the premier noted the release of the report by Mkhwebane.
He said Mabuyane maintained that he was never involved in any acts of fraud or corruption.
“As a result, he has instructed his legal representatives to take the report on judicial review because it ignored substantial information that sought to respond to the allegations levelled against him.
“The premier has further instructed his legal counsel to urgently interdict the implementation of the remedial actions,” he said.
Mbananga said Mabuyane remained “unwavering in his commitment to fight corruption and maladministration”, and remained focused on serving the people of the Eastern Cape.
The DA, Cope and the UDM have called on Mabuyane to resign but Mabuyane, who also hit the campaign trail on Monday, said he would challenge the report in court.
DA leader in the Eastern Cape Andrew Whitfield called on Mabuyane to resign in light of the damning report along with Madikizela.
“It is galling that the premier and his executive can walk around and preach about tackling corruption, good governance and consequence management, when he himself has had his hand in the cookie jar the entire time,” Whitfield said.
* Edited by Nhanhla Mbatha