Premier Zamani Saul has denied the allegations saying the party is just “on a fishing expedition”. The EFF are accusing Saul of “being a liar and dishonest man whose sole mission is to serve his interests and close friends”.
THE OFFICE of the Premier has accused the Economic Freedom Fights (EFF) of desperately engaging in a fishing expedition after the party made several allegations, accusing the Premier of “being a liar and dishonest man whose sole mission is to serve his interests and close friends”.
At a press conference held earlier this week, the provincial chairperson of the EFF, Aubrey Baartman, stated that it had become clear that Covid-19 had presented an opportunity for the politically connected to dispense political patronage by awarding their friends taxpayers’ money meant to fight the pandemic, while disregarding proper supply chain management procurement process.
Baartman pointed out that there was a call for the state to release a list of all companies and expenditure relating to PPE tenders.
“In response to this call, the Premier, informed the public that 175 service providers were awarded tenders for the Northern Cape.
“This statement is factually incorrect as one department alone, Social Development, awarded more than 200 service providers PPE tenders.”
He pointed out that MVK Investments was awarded a tender to the value of R16 million by the Department of Health. “However, in terms of the list provided by the Premier for Covid 19 expdenditure, MVK was only awarded a tender of less than R1 million. This information is factually incorrect and misleading and a deliberate attempt to distort facts.”
Baartman also referred to what he termed “the infamous Tanzania” trip. “During August 2019 the Premier accompanied by some delegates who were hand-picked by him, undertook a trip to Tanzania.
“Some of the delegates who accompanied the Premier were not even government employees. In response to questions posed to him during a house-sitting, he indicated that the trip was not funded by the Northern Cape Provincial Government or other government departments. However it later emerged that the trip was, in fact, paid for by some government departments, municipalities and even the provincial legislature.”
Baartman further pointed out that Dr Zamani Saul is listed as an active director of an entity known as Masiquhome Trading 737.
“It is alleged that the company and one of its directors has been appointed in the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison to, among other things, oversee the Boegebaai Port and Rail Infrastructure Project. It is our contention that the appointment of this person is irregular in that not only is he a friend of the Premier but also a business partner.
“The company continues to do business with the government. In fact, it has been benefitting from the economic development funding by NCEDA.”
The EFF further called on the Premier to suspend his Special Advisor, Norman Shushu, and also questioned the appointment of Anele Gxoyiya, who it describes as a close friend of the Premier, as the Public Service Commission.
“The role of the Public Service Commissioner is to investigate and report corruption, maladministration and appointments of HODs in various government departments. Having his friend in this strategic position means that the Premier will be able to influence decisions and not be held accountable.”
During the press conference, the EFF also referred to the appointment of an official in the Department of Health after he was charged with various counts of misconduct.
“Shockingly the Premier’s administration deemed it necessary to reappoint him as a special advisor in the Department of Health. It is also alleged that this person’s company does business with the department.”
Baartman stated that the party had also noticed that almost 90% of all PPEs at the Department of Economic Development was awarded to Mhlanga Tours and questioned the relationship between the director of the company and the Premier’s PA.
It also raised questions regarding the contracts given to three companies for virtual meeting conferencing facilities and items including TVs and PCs.
“It is our contention that the prices charged for this service were inflated by some of the companies and that this was an abuse of state resources as the service was unnecessary and not required as the state already has this equipment.”
The party called for the immediate suspension of the HODs of the Departments of Health, Coghsta, Economic Development and Transport, Safety and Liaison.
“We are also calling for a thorough investigation to be conducted by the Special Investigation Unit into all PPE contracts since the beginning of the national lockdown.”
It further requested a detailed report of how much was received from mining houses and how these funds and donations were distributed.
“We call on the Premier, to do the honourable thing and also step down with immediate effect as there is overwhelming evidence that he is on a mission to collapse the administration of this Province.”
In its response to the EFF’s allegations, the Office of the Premier stated that the party was “desperately engaging in a fishing expedition”, pointing out that a complete list of Personal protective Equipment (PPE) procurement, at the time, was published.
“There was no attempt to conceal or misrepresent any information. The list published also gave a clear indication of the total value of procurement for PPE as well as procurement for food parcels under the social relief programme of the Department of Social Development.
“It was also very clearly specified that the list was at the time of publication and was not final and conclusive and would be updated as payments were effected. It was also made clear that the list will be submitted to the Presidency and if any transactions are found to be irregular they will be referred for investigation by the relevant authorities.”
His office added that Saul was on record as stating that in the interest of accountability and transparency, the list had been released and he undertook to be the first to report any irregularities to the law enforcement agencies should it be established.
“On the issue of the Special Advisor to the Premier, the Premier has already responded to all queries and it is advised that further enquiries should be directed to the SAPS. The SAPS procurement falls outside the mandate of provincial government and the Premier therefore dismisses the allegations of interference in their processes with contempt.”
With regards to the company, Masiqhame Trading 737, the Premier’s Office indicated that the company was formed in 2006 for the joint purchase of a Platform Pub in De Aar.
“To enable the transfer of the property and the liquor license, a company had to be established. After the establishment of the company, the owner increased the agreed upon purchase price from R250 000 to R450 000 and it was above the planned budget of the group as a result the directors abandoned the purchase of the pub and the company was dormant.
“The company is in the process of being deregistered. In fact the request for deregistration was submitted many years ago and as stated was, to the best of the Premier’s knowledge, never a trading entity.
“The appointment of the Public Service Commissioner was a process spearheaded by the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature and the EFF was involved in the shortlisting process, interviewing the candidates and appointment of the successful candidate.
“In actual fact the EFF fully supported this appointment with no reservation. To say that the Premier influenced the process is devoid of any truth and substance and borders on double standards.
“We want to re-emphasise that the Premier does not appoint the Public Service Commissioner, it is the prerogative of the Provincial Legislature.”
The Office of the Premier pointed out that Covid-19 had brought with it many challenges, chief amongst these was the one of meeting and travelling.
“Therefore as is the practice worldwide that meetings, dialogues and engagements were done virtually, this necessitated the office to procure required equipment that would serve this specific purpose. This office can confirm that the equipment is in use daily and managed internally by office staff. It is false that a service provider has been appointed to manage and operate the equipment already procured.
“Some of these engagements are of a very confidential nature and it goes without saying that no third party is allowed in these engagements. As for the allegation that the equipment was procured at exorbitant prices, the office can confirm that all due processes were followed in the procurement.
“It should be noted, as stated before, that the Premier is not involved in procurement of any goods and services; that is the exclusive responsibility of the administration. It is rather unfortunate and disingenuous that he should be linked or associated with procurement matters.”
It was also pointed out that the Premier was not responsible for the appointment of support staff in the Ministries or departments.
“The Premier has already on a number of occasions responded via written and oral replies in the Legislature regarding the Tanzania trip and considers the matter closed. Transcripts of these should be available upon request from the Legislature.”
It added that the EFF had raised a number of allegations for which no evidence was provided “and some of these are purely malicious in intent and aimed at stirring emotions and tarnishing the image of the Premier”.
“As has become custom, the EFF seeks relevance through unfounded and hollow accusations and is advised to, where they allege corruption and have proof to the effect, to approach the law enforcement authorities to investigate.
“It is on record and very evident that the Premier, as Head of Government, Chairperson of the Provincial Command Council and chairperson of the Governing Party has committed to clean, transparent and open governance. This includes being responsible with the public resources entrusted to the Provincial Administration to better the lives of the people of the Province.
“The fight against corruption and wastage is one Premier remains committed to and will continue to champion.”
Saul’s business partner, Hastings Nel, whose appointment in the Department of Transport and Safety was fingered by the EFF as irregular in that he was a friend or the Premier and his business partner, said on Friday that he had “noted the malicious statement released and distributed by the EFF which lacks depth and substance moreover facts.”
“In 2006 we formed a company with the intentions of purchasing a club/tavern in De Aar as we were at the time based and worked in De Aar. After the deal collapsed the company was deregistered in late 2011.”
Nel added that as the company was deregistered it was practically impossible that it could have had business relations with NCEDA.
“There is no way that the company has benefited from NCEDA in any way and is not doing any business with any government department nor any municipality in this province or anywhere in South Africa for that matter. These are lies.”
Nel stated further that regarding his appointment at the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, there was a vacancy for a project manager which was advertised publicly in national and provincial newspapers, adding that he submitted his application like any South African, was invited to interviews and was appointed. “I am not sure on the irregularity of that as Saul was not part of the interviewing panel. These are again lies.”
He stated further that the insinuation that his long-standing relations with Saul was untoward or beneficial for any post was misplaced and maliciously cited to create a storm in a tea cup with the intention of attempting to dent the image of the Premier.
“Yes, it is correct we have been comrades and friends for a long time and I am honoured to be his friend and I can state it without any fear of contradiction that he will never and has never done me any favours. After finishing my contract at Siyancuma Municipality I had to go and apply for vacancies like any other South African.”
He stated further that as “a public servant and a leader of the ANC I believe there is a new organised wave of attack against the Premier of the Northern Cape which is based on a concoction of unfounded so called facts by peddled to try and find any form of “so called dirt” on everyone Saul seems to have spoken, or even had a meal with.
“I believe the EFF has wasted a glorious opportunity to address their members on real issues.”