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Calm after the storm

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MEETING: Seen here is Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas with deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa at the provincial elective conference this past weekend. Lucas is set to meet the ANCs top six today. Picture: Danie van der Lith

ALTHOUGH yesterday was the calm after the storm following shocking allegations of state funds being siphoned to bankroll the weekend’s ANC provincial elective conference, Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas has apparently met with President Jacob Zuma.

It is believed that she met the president to discuss the alleged evidence of corruption and allegations that R26 million was authorised by officials from the Department of Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism to finance the conference.

A planned press conference by Lucas, where she would have “explained her actions” of not accepting a nomination as ANC chairwoman at the elective conference, did not take place yesterday,

On Sunday her office confirmed that she did meet with the Hawks last week, shortly before reshuffling her cabinet and replacing, amongst others, Mac Jack with Gail Parker as MEC for the Department of Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism.

According to insiders, it is believed that Lucas yesterday met with Zuma, who they claim initially sanctioned the reshuffle and ordered the Hawks to investigate the alleged authorisation of R26 million by officials from the Department of Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism to fund the elective conference.

Lucas earlier indicated that she wanted the conference to be reviewed by the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC). NEC members are due to meet today.

Her office yesterday confirmed that the premier would be meeting with the top five ANC officials today, as per their request.

Meanwhile, the DA in the Northern Cape has welcomed the reported investigation by the Hawks into the alleged suspicious activity at the provincial Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, specifically relating to the alleged maladministration of the provincial Economic Growth and Development Fund.

“We have been raising the issue of questionable payments, corruption and cronyism at this fund as far back as 2014 and an investigation into the matter is long overdue,” DA spokesman, Boitumelo Babuseng, said yesterday .

Cope said that it was not surprised by reports that state money was allegedly siphoned to fund the ANC conference, adding that they found the “sheer brazen and shameless bravado with which it was being executed extremely shocking”.

“It is an almost daily occurrence that taxpayers money and public assets are either deliberately mismanaged for political advantage or organised acts of corruption are perpetrated to enrich connected politicians and tenderpreneurs. State institutions have now become a thriving criminal enterprise and there is a sense of impunity,” Cope national chairman, Pakes Dikgetsi, said.

“We applaud the brave move by the premier to hand over information about these alleged crimes to the police. We can only hope that it will be dealt with swiftly and that the perpetrators are brought to book.”

The Northern Cape Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism responded by saying that there is “absolutely no truth to the story”.

“The Northern Cape Economic Development, Trade and Investment Promotion Agency is not responsible for dispersing funds to SMMEs and the said amount of R26 million was budgeted for the SMME development fund during the 2016/2017 budget speech. All qualifying SMMEs received the money. No extra money was given to SMMEs who qualified,” spokesperson for the department, Zandisile Luphahla, said.