The recent allegations surrounding health MEC Bandile Masuku’s involvement in multimillion-rand Covid-19 tender irregularities in the Gauteng department of health, has caused an uproar with multiple opposition institutions calling for him to step down.
This follows a Sunday Independent report that Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko’s company, Royal Bhaca Projects, was awarded contracts amounting to R125 million by the provincial health department soon after President Cyril Ramaphosa in March announced a national lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
Madzikane is the husband of presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko, who also sits on the African National Congress’s (ANC) provincial executive committee (PEC).
Both Diko and his wife have since denied allegations of corruption.
The publication reported that there was a link in the corruption due to a close relationship between Diko’s wife and the MEC’s wife, Loyiso Lugayeni-Masuku.
This led to Gauteng Premier David Makhura requesting the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate the matter after calls from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Democratic Alliance (DA), and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
On Tuesday, both the EFF and Cosatu in Gauteng argued that Masuku needed to voluntarily refrain from his position pending the SIU’s investigation onto his alleged influence.
In a statement, the EFF said it was disgusted on how Gauteng health department handled the awarding of the Royal Bacha Projects PPE contract and demanded an investigation into all PPE contracts since the beginning of the lockdown.
“It is not a coincidence that over 90 companies involved in questionable PPE contracted in the province are linked to politically connected individuals.
“It is the consequence of a [contracted] state that outsources all its functions to parasitic individuals and companies whose motive is money, and not to save lives.”
Although the EFF welcomed the SIU’s investigation into the tenders, the party further called the alleged influence of the Masuku’s chief of staff, David Maimela, to be probed.
According to the party, Maimela is said to have played a critical role in the awarding on the contract to Madzikane.
“This investigation must also include the alleged restructuring of the staff in the department, especially at supply chain.
“We call on the MEC to immediately vacate his office to allow for the SIU investigation into Gauteng health as well as his chief of staff.
“It cannot be that a company owned by Diko’s husband is awarded a tender swiftly after the announcement of the national lockdown and no undue influence was gained as a result of his proximity to the MEC.”
The party further called for Khusela to resign after it was announced that she had requested the presidency to allow her to take leave of absence from all official roles in government amid the investigation.
“It is the only way that the nation can be reassured that Ramaphosa’s regime is one that is not committed to corruption and the integrity of the office she currently represents can be protected.”
Meanwhile, 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.
“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.”
Masuku has since denied being involved in the procurement processes within his department.
The MEC defended himself, arguing that he only had requested that the department’s administration observe good governing principles.
He said that he had formally requested a forensic audit into Covid-19 procurement and that the Gauteng premier subsequently requested the SIU to undertake the investigation.
“The SIU investigation commenced in May 2020 and the premier’s office will announce the findings as soon as they become available. As the originator of the process, I wholly support the SIU’s investigation.
“If evidence of corruption is found at the Gauteng department of health, action will be taken, and offenders prosecuted. Those found guilty of fraud and/or the misappropriation of funds at the department will face the full might of the law,” he said.
Masuku added that he was neither involved, nor had any influence on, procurement processes and that contracts are awarded by the Supply Chain Management function in the finance department.
It was reported that the ANC in Gauteng will convene a special PEC to discuss alleged corruption.
This comes after, the party summoned those implicated and Makhura to discuss the matter on Monday. ANC said during the meeting, the Gauteng provincial government will present a detailed report.
Makhura is also expected to brief the media this week on investigations that have been completed by SIU, including those that are underway.