The Fish Rots from the Head: EC Corruption Will Never Be Dealt With Until its Premiers are Held to Account

In a country throttled by crime and corruption, it is frustrating to see prominent political figures get away with looting state resources. A sitting Premier and a former Premier of the Eastern Cape are alleged to have benefited improperly from the province’s initiatives to honour the late struggle icons from the province, President Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

ActionSA will therefore write to the Office of the Public Protector requesting an update on whether or not any progress has been made on the remedial actions to date and if not, why not?

Former Premier of the Eastern Cape, Phumulo Masualle, appeared to have unduly benefited from the misuse of funds meant for late President Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Masualle, then the MEC for Finance, and other senior Eastern Cape members of the ruling party allegedly took advantage of the situation for their own financial gain. R250 000 set aside for the send-off of the former president is alleged to have inexplicably found its way into his personal bank account.

The money was part of the R65 million that was spent on the funeral by the OR Tambo, King Sabata Dalindyebo and Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality. What makes this suspicious transaction all the more tragic is the fact that the money came from the R300 million infrastructure grant the Provincial Treasury had set aside for projects to improve water, electricity, sanitation, ablution facilities and refurbishing hospitals in the province and these challenges are now worse than ever.

I was the leader of the opposition in Bhisho at the time and my written questions to Masualle (then the Premier) were edited and amended by legislature staff and I protested publicly about this protective obfuscation.  I was subsequently charged for bringing the institution into disrepute and was suspended from the Legislature for a month without salary for refusing to withdraw my public protestation and refusing to apologise to the Premier.

I challenged this action by the Legislature in the Makhanda High Court, and they settled, and it was in fact the Legislature that had to apologise to me and pay my salary.

In the end, Masualle laid the blame at the door of the Head of the Department for the Treasury, Marion Mbina-Mthembu, who until now has also never been held to account for this very obvious breach of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

The current Premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, also had damming findings made against him by the Public Protector, that he irregularly benefited from a R1.1 million tender for the memorial service of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The public protector ordered the Hawks to investigate allegations that Mabuyane received close to R450 000 from the tender. The money is alleged to have been used to renovate his house while he was MEC for Economic Development.

The Public Protector also found that the Eastern Cape Public Works MEC, Babalo Madikizela, and the Provincial ANC itself unduly benefited to the tune of R350 000 and R280 000 respectively, from the R1.1 million siphoned out of the coffers of the Provincial Government.

ActionSA believes in the adage that a fish rots from the head. Therefore, the fight against corruption will never even commence, let alone be won, without holding senior politicians and senior public servants, that have been deployed into their positions as ANC cadres, accountable for their unconscionable use of public funds.

There are just too many interminable court cases (those against former President Zuma are the most confounding of all) that seem never to result in the conviction, especially of high-profile politicians and deployees. The wave of crime engulfing our country can be directly attributable to the impunity of the political elite.

ActionSA will exhaust all avenues to put pressure on the NPA for a speedy conclusion of these investigations.  A responsible and ethical leader would do everything possible to clear their names and restore the dignity of the Office of the Premier.