Mashatile slammed for grant

The Gauteng finance department, then headed by Gauteng premier Paul Mashatile, donated more than R500 000 to an ANC-aligned women’s movement without approval from the province’s treasury.

Mashatile was provincial minister for finance before he took over as premier last month after the resignation of Mbhazima Shilowa.

The irregular payment was uncovered by the Auditor General (AG) in its 2007/2008 report and was tabled in the Gauteng department of economic development’s annual report earlier this year.

This week the Democratic Alliance issued a statement, asking the ANC to pay back the taxpayers’ money donated for accommodation for the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa.

‘This contravention of the rules seems to have been a clear attempt to hide the donation of more than R500 000 to an ANC organisation. This money has been used to fund ANC party activities rather than for the public good,” said DA member of the provincial legislature Glenda Steyn, who is the party’s representative on Gauteng’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).

The AG found that the department contravened a treasury regulation requiring separate approval for sponsorships exceeding R100 000. ‘The department sponsored accommodation to the Progressive Women’s Movement for a value above R500 000 contrary to this regulation,” the AG stated.

Department spokesperson Percy Mthimkhulu admitted this week that a skills shortage prevented approval being obtained from treasury, but said the department understood the women’s movement to be a ‘non-partisan organisation”.

‘As far as I am aware, the money was never ‘donated’ to the women’s movement.
It was paid to service providers who were arranging accommodation for the women’s movement conference in Gauteng,” Mthimkhulu said.

On the AG’s criticism of not obtaining approval, Mthimkhulu said due to ‘capacity constraints” in financial management approval was not sought ‘timeously” from treasury.

‘By capacity constraints we mean that at the time the financial management unit did not have people who were adequately skilled to handle such transactions. We have since addressed this challenge and we will seek condonation from the legislature.”

Although the women’s movement is not an official structure of the ANC, it was created by the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) in 2006 after a conference resolution to create a movement similar to the Women’s National Coalition of the struggle years.

ANC chairperson and Deputy President Baleka Mbete was appointed convener of the women’s movement and the spokesperson is league stalwart Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini. Tshwane Mayor Gwen Ramokgopa is the movement’s convener in Gauteng.

In the movement’s ‘base document” it is described as follows: ‘After extensive discussions as the ANCWL and alliance partners we have agreed that a women’s movement is a broad front of women’s organisations, grassroots organisations of all kinds, feminist-oriented groups, researchers, faith-based organisations, traditional healers, women involved in policy formulation and programmes.

‘The [ANC] Women’s League states that the movement must be progressive and diverse. That it should be shaped by local struggles and has to acknowledge that women are not a homogeneous group. Similarly the movement should advocate the ethos of transforming South Africa into a non-sexist, non-racial, democratic, united and prosperous South Africa.”

But Steyn calls the women’s movement an ‘ANC organisation” that purports to be an umbrella body, but limits membership to ‘progressive” organisations and those of the ‘disciplined left”.

‘The DA believes the ANC should pay back the R500 000 ... The DA would also like to know details of the process by which this grant was approved. It seems officials have abused their authority for political purposes. Political responsibility for this misuse of money lies directly at the door of the then MEC and now premier, Paul Mashatile.”

Mthimkhulu said the department found it difficult to understand the call for the money to be paid back, as it was spent on a conference ‘whose objectives, among others, were to advance the economic empowerment of women, an issue we remain passionate about”.

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