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Public Protector’s office hits back at Eastern Cape ANC over timing of report

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Meanwhile, DA Leader John Steenhuisen plans to lead an anti-corruption protest against the ANC Eastern Cape on Wednesday.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)

THE OFFICE of the Public Protector says it is “disappointed” with the Eastern Cape ANC’s claims that its damning report against the province’s premier, Oscar Mabuyane, for irregularly benefiting from a tender, was timed to coincide with the provincial ANC’s election campaign.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the spokesperson for the Office of the Public Protector, Oupa Segalwe, said the allegations were “baseless”.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane made damning findings against Mabuyane for irregularly benefiting from the R1.1 million tender that was meant for the memorial service of Struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

In her report released on Friday, Mkhwebane ordered the Hawks to investigate allegations that Mabuyane received R450,000 that was used to renovate his house while he was MEC for Economic Development.

Her findings also included that MEC Babalo Madikizela and the provincial ANC itself benefited to the tune of R350,000 and R280,000, respectively, from R1.1million siphoned out of the coffers of the provincial government.

“The office does not stop exercising its powers or performing its functions merely because an election is approaching. That would be at odds with the Section 181(2) Constitution, which provides that the office is independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law and that it must be impartial and must exercise its powers and perform its functions without fear, favour or prejudice,” Segalwe said.

He added that the allegations to the effect that the office was “party to intra-party and external factionalism”, that the report was timed to coincide with the provincial ANC’s election campaign and that the investigation report in question was ready two months ago, were rejected with contempt.

Segalwe said the last two responses to notices served on implicated parties were received on July 13 and 22, 2021. These were from Madikizela and the municipal manager of Mbizana Local Municipality, Luvuyo Mahlaka, respectively, both of whom requested extensions of the deadline to file their submissions.

Segalwe explained that once all the responses were in, the investigation team had to study and analyse the submissions, conduct legal research, draft the report, have it quality-assured at the investigation branch level and again at other internal fora such as the ‘Full Bench’, where the Public Protector, Deputy Public Protector, Chief Operations Officer, heads of investigations and Legal Services officials sit to peer-review reports before they are signed for release.

The report was released along with seven others at the office’s most recent end-of-quarter media briefing.

“The question that the ANC in the Eastern Cape ought to concern itself with is whether Premier Mabuyane, MEC Madikizela, and the party itself benefited from funds siphoned from the public purse under the pretext that the money was going to be used to ferry mourners to the memorial service of Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela,” Segalwe said.

He added that the party should also be reflecting on why the manner, pattern and short succession in which the funds were disbursed did not raise a suspicion of a commission of criminal conduct in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

“The Office of the Public Protector stands by its report. The office has also taken note of intentions by some of the parties to obtain an order suspending the implementation of the remedial action pending the judicial review of the report. The office looks forward to a speedy review process to pave the way for full accountability,” Segalwe said.

Meanwhile, DA leader John Steenhuisen will lead an anti-corruption protest against the ANC Eastern Cape.

Steenhuisen will be joined by DA Eastern Cape provincial leader and Nelsona Mandela Bay mayoral candidate Nqaba Bhanga, DA provincial chairperson Andrew Whitfield, DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille, and PE northern areas constituency leader Yusuf Cassim in the protest on Wednesday.

Political Bureau

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