Former Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku plans to go to court to challenge the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report on his role in awarding controversial personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts, which led to his dismissal, announced by Premier David Makhura on Friday.
In a statement released hours after Makhura announced his dismissal, Masuku slammed the SIU, claiming its report “makes incorrect and non-factual findings about my role as executive authority”.
The SIU investigated Masuku’s role in R125-million worth of PPE deals awarded to Thandisizwe Diko’s Royal Bhaca Projects, which was subsequently cancelled. Diko is married to presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko. The Masuku and Diko families are close friends.
Makhura said the SIU found Masuku “failed to execute his functions in compliance with the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act”. According to a Business Day report, the SIU found Masuku’s office was aware of PPE tender irregularities but failed to act.
Masuku said he had followed the ANC’s advice and resisted commenting on the allegations against him.
“At this conjuncture [sic] I consider it fair that I finally speak for myself. I do so because I understand that in politics, perceptions do matter,” he said.
“I wish to state it upfront that – just as I have done to all the accountability platforms I have been to – I did not act in a dishonest, illegal or corrupt manner to benefit myself, family and friends at the expense of people who face major suffering against Covid-19.”
The former health MEC accused the SIU of ignoring all affidavits but one – he didn’t say which – and making no reference in its report to the evidence he and his office presented.
He claimed the SIU confused the distinction between his role as MEC and the accounting officer, the department’s director-general, and investigators failed to link the evidence to its findings.
Masuku accused the SIU of using “innuendos in a manner that gives an impression that they are engaged in political speech rather than the search for truth and facts” and said it failed to properly interpret the law, blaming him for decisions he had nothing to do with.
“It is clear to me that the SIU is either under extreme pressure from the legitimate public outcry against corruption and the need to ensure accountability or it is deliberately engaged in politics for ends that are yet to be established,” said Masuku.
Masuku said in April he asked the Gauteng health department head to investigate PPE procurement deals. Professor Mkhululi Lukhele, department head at the time, resigned recently after he was suspended amid allegations he failed to exercise sufficient oversight.
The former health MEC claimed “it is extremely unfair for certain media outlets, the SIU and all those engaged in peddling falsehoods to suggest or imply that I failed to exercise oversight on Covid-19 PPE procurement”.
“I must pursue the option of a legal review [to] set aside these SIU findings because after this, I still must face family, mentors, comrades and friends and account once more.”
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said investigators offered everyone interviewed, including Masuku, an opportunity to tell their side of the story and the recommendation to take administrative action against Masuku was made after considering all the evidence.
He said it was “very unfortunate” the SIU couldn’t respond to each of Masuku’s allegations directly, but those will be ventilated in court.
Kganyago said the SIU provides regular interim reports on its investigation into Covid-19 relief spending, which will be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa when complete. Action against multiple officials in the Gauteng department of health has been taken as a result.
In July 2020, Ramaphosa signed a proclamation authorising the SIU to investigate any unlawful or proper conduct in the procurement of goods and services in the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After citing the reasons for sacking Masuku on Friday, Makhura said he may reappoint him should he be cleared of corruption allegations. Makhura said he wouldn’t appoint another permanent health MEC until the SIU’s investigation is finished.
“I do want to know and get this completed before I appoint the MEC for health in Gauteng because I want to say, should MEC Masuku be cleared, I will gladly reappoint him for MEC of health,” said the premier. DM