Pressure is mounting on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko and Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku to resign from their positions, following a R125m tender scandal.

CHARLES MOLELE

GAUTENG Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku faces a political career-defining moment when he appears before the ANC’s top brass to explain his role in the alleged irregular awarding of R125 million in state tenders to a company owned by the husband of suspended presidential spokesperson, Khusela Diko.

Masuku and Diko are scheduled to appear before the ANC’s Gauteng special provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting on Wednesday to discuss the alleged corruption in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Masuku has denied any wrongdoing while Diko has taken a leave of absence pending an investigation into the claims that her husband’s company, Royal Bhaca, benefitted from the state tender.

On Monday, Gauteng ANC spokesperson Bones Modise said the outcome of the PEC meeting would be known on Thursday during a press conference to be addressed by Premier David Makhura.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting for Masuku to resign with immediate effect pending an investigation into the tender.

The country’s leading opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA)and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), said Masuku should resign because the corruption probe undermined trust in the government and limited its ability to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which many in his similar position see as an opportunity to take advantage of the emergency to abuse their power for private gain.

High-ranking ANC leaders and some in the tripartite alliance have also joined a growing chorus of calls for Masuku to step aside.

Masuku rose in the party ranks after cutting his teeth in the student movement in the early 90s, and later in the ANC Youth League politics.

He is also a man closely linked to a power faction in the province accused of using COVID-19 procurement processes to raise funds for an upcoming African National Congress (ANC) conference.

According to the Sunday Independent, Royal Bhaca’s multi-million contract was part of a fundraising strategy ahead of the Johannesburg ANC regional conference at which Loyiso Lugayeni-Masuku is expected to contest for the position of chairperson.

Masuku is married to Loyiso Lugayeni-Masuku, an ANC municipal councillor in the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality and the municipality’s MMC for Corporate and Shared Services.

Lugayeni-Masuku is currently Johannesburg ANC deputy secretary.

Lugayeni-Masuku’s husband and Diko are close comrades who serve in the Gauteng ANC provincial executive committee (PEC), a powerful leadership structure which plays an oversight role over the provincial government.

The Young Communist League in Gauteng said on Tuesday that Gauteng tender scam was a “result of an internal rapture (sic) within the dominant faction in the politics of the ANC in relation to what we have always understood as the Makariki faction within the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC).”

Masuku has denied this.  

“Throughout my career, I have always acted with utmost integrity and conviction. I strongly refute any suggestion that COVID-19 procurement is being used as a means to raise funds ahead of ANC conferences,” Masuku said.

Cosatu said it was not surprised by the allegations Masuku and the department was facing.

“The MEC’s response to the latest allegations is indifferent and borders on arrogance. The Gauteng health department has an unsteady and depressing history and it needs a spotless and convincing leadership if it is to be rehabilitated and stabilised. It is disheartening to note that Gauteng is not only the epicentre of Covid-19, but it is also becoming the epicentre of corruption,” Cosatu said in a statement.

“The first tender irregularity was reported two days after the President announced the lockdown. The people of Gauteng were told that investigations were underway, but to date, nothing has been reported on the progress recorded. We, therefore, are calling on the premier and the Gauteng PEC to act decisively to rein in the situation. MEC Masuku should step aside until he is cleared.”

Government has initiated a countrywide investigation into the corruption allegations levelled against several companies.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said the SIU would investigate allegations related to the misuse of COVID-19 funds in all areas of the state.

In addition to the SIU, a collaborative effort centre has been established and it will comprise the Hawks, Crime Intelligence, SAPS, the Financial Intelligence Centre and the Independent Police Investigating Directorate.

The centre is based at the FIC and has been investigating cases involving the distribution of food parcels, social relief grants and procurement.

He said at least 36 cases have been investigated and were at various stages.

“We are determined that every instance of alleged corruption must be thoroughly investigated, that those responsible for wrongdoing should be prosecuted and that all monies stolen or overpriced are recovered,” he said.

At least 90 businesses are suspected of setting up corrupt contracts with the health department.

In total, the estimated costs of corruption so far has sailed above R2.2 billion – a figure that’s likely to soar.

Ramaphosa has also warned that ‘fake charities, food parcel abuse and fraudulent UIF claims’ are also on his radar.

(Compiled by Inside Politics staff)

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