Stofile rejects Pillay report ‘with contempt’

Minister of Sport and Recreation Makhenkesi Stofile, named in a voluminous report on corruption in the Eastern Cape, said on Thursday he rejected its findings ”with contempt”.

He was reacting to the publication of leaked findings from the report of the Pillay commission, which has been handed to the provincial government but has not yet been officially released.

”I just want to assure the people of the Eastern Cape that just as previous attempts to tarnish my image failed, even this one will be exposed for the political conspiracy it is,” he said.

The Daily Dispatch said the report showed how Stofile, a former premier of the Eastern Cape, and two other senior African National Congress (ANC) politicians and their families had benefited from an ”orchestrated siphoning off” of nearly R200-million in public funds.

The report said another R250-million simply disappeared form the province’s public coffers over a decade.

The other politicians named are current ANC Eastern Cape provincial chairperson Stone Sizani, a former provincial minister of education, and Enoch Godongwana, a former provincial minister of economic affairs and current head of the Financial Sector Charter Council.

The Dispatch said that according to Pillay, Stofile signed off R760 000 from the premier’s fund to two organisations linked to his wife, Nambitha, and that two more of Stofile’s relatives had irregularly-granted Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) loans totalling just under R500 000 written off.

Stofile said in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon that he had always assumed he would be called to appear before the commission, which was appointed in 2005, to explain whatever issues investigators had picked up.

”This has still not happened,” he said. ”The result of this has obviously led to the quoted report, which in my view is malicious, is a distortion of facts and is a deliberate effort to scandalise my name and undermine my integrity …

”I reject the report with the contempt it deserves.”

He said the suggestion of irregularity in a premier’s discretionary fund grant to the Triple Trust Foundation (TTF), a respected rural development NGO, was ridiculous.

”That my wife was a board member of the TTF has nothing to do with these allegations, and she did not benefit a penny out of them,” he said.

As for the allegation that two of his relatives received loans from the ECDC, he said he had discovered that Naude and Andile Stofile did in fact get loans, but they were not his relatives.

”The fact that we have a deputy minister by the surname of Botha does not mean that she is the sister to Pik Botha,” he said.

”I have never heard of the two gentlemen until this morning [Thursday]. I do not even know what they look like.”

Stofile also hit out at the commission itself, saying he was ”saddened that people who purport to be professionals can produce such shoddy work”.

”We will deal with that with our lawyers in due course.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille said in a statement earlier that given the gravity of the findings, there was ”simply no way” that Stofile could be allowed to continue in office.

”Stofile must be given a chance to clear his name in a court of law but, until this happens, he has no place in government,” she said.

Bobby Stevenson, DA chief whip in the provincial legislature, said his party had asked the speaker that the report be formally tabled.

He said it appeared to have been ”strategically leaked” in the context of calls for the resignation of current Premier Nosimo Balindlela.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, whose power base is in the Eastern Cape, said the Pillay revelations were disturbing, ”especially since it seems there have been several attempts at covering it up”.

”But once again, the infighting in the ANC has brought the skeletons tumbling out of the closet.”

The commission was headed by Eastern Cape Judge Ronnie Pillay.

Stofile served as premier from 1997 to 2004, when he joined the Cabinet.

He was provincial chairperson until December 2006. — Sapa

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