The African National Congress (ANC) says – for now – it is not going to act against Premier Oscar Mabuyane, who has been implicated in the theft of public money meant for the memorial of struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Earlier this week Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane released a damning report that found Mabuyane and others had used the memorial service to siphon huge amounts of cash from the Eastern Cape provincial government.
The ANC, which has a step-aside policy against members accused of wrongdoing, convened a Special Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) meeting on Monday in the Eastern Cape to look into the matter.
The party said it noted the public protector’s report which implicated Premier Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane and MEC Babalo Madikizela.
The ANC said after listening to representations made by Mabuyane and Madikizela it decided against taking any action because they both said they were taking the public protector’s report on review.
“We strongly appeal to all members of the ANC and broader society to give both Comrade Mabuyane and Comrade Madikizela space as they seek legal review of both the process and substantive facts around the PP [public protector] report,” said the ANC in the Eastern Cape in a statement on Tuesday.
“The ANC PEC reiterates its position that once there are any new developments regarding this matter, it will act consistently and decisively.
The public protector said investigations into a complaint of possible corruption found that Mabuyane had allegedly benefited from more than R1.1 million said to have been siphoned off from the Mbizana municipality.
Madikizela, MEC for public works, was allegedly found to have improperly benefitted from the misuse of public funds.
The ANC said whilst it respects the Public Protector’s Office and its role in promoting accountability in our country consistent with the stance of our movement on all Chapter 9 institutions, it was concerned about the timing of the release of the report.
The ANC said the report was released just weeks before the 1 November local government elections, yet it was finalised two months back.
The ANC said “this stance and timing” was “regrettable” and “weaponised the belief that the PP [public protector] is party to intra-party and external factionalism”.
Responding to the ANC concerns on Tuesday, the public protector said she was “disappointed” over the comments attributed to the party’s PEC in the Eastern Cape.
Her findings were Mabuyane, Madikizela and the provincial ANC itself unlawfully benefited to the tune of R450 000, R350 000 and R280 000, respectively from R1,1 million siphoned from the coffers of the Eastern Cape provincial government.
Mkhwebane said she rejected with contempt “baseless allegations to the effect that her office is ‘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”.
She said the last two responses to notices served on implicated parties were only received on 13 and 22 July 2021.
“They were from MEC Madikizela and the Municipal Manager of Mbizana Local Municipality, Mr. Luvuyo Mahlaka respectively, both of whom requested extensions of the deadline to file their submissions,” said the public protector.
Mkhwebane said there were other processes that had to be followed once the responses had been received from implicated persons that included quality assurance and peer-reviews.
“The party should also be seized with whether the manner, pattern and short succession in which the funds were disbursed does 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,” said Mkhwebane.
She said her office does not stop exercising its powers or performing its functions “merely because an election is approaching”.
The public protector said she stands by her report and her 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.
Mkhwebane said she looks forward to a speedy review process to pave the way for full accountability.