Cloud hangs over Balindlela

Former Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela may be sued for damages after allegedly using her powers in office to deal with political foes.

In a situation similar to that of former president Thabo Mbeki, Balindlela stands accused of using her official powers to ‘embarrass” and ‘prejudice” political leaders who did not support her.

Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile has, with other ANC leaders, asked the court to set aside the findings of the Pillay commission, set up by Balindlela in 2005, that fingers them for corruption.

Judge Rajarithina Pillay compiled a report on financial mismanagement in the provincial government of the Eastern Cape and handed the final report Balindlela, who finally released it this year, shortly before she was fired from her position.

The report fingers Stofile, ANC national executive committee member Enoch Godongwana, ANC provincial chairperson Stone Sizani and former ANC provincial leader Mcebisi Jonas for corruption. Stofile served as Eastern Cape premier while Godongwana was provincial finance minister and Sizani was provincial education minister. Godongwana, Sizani and Jonas (who at the time served as chief executive officer of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation) say in court papers Balindlela ‘caused [them] to lose their position[s]”.
They declined to elaborate.

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian Godongwana said the aim of the court application is for the four men to clear their names.

‘It is very difficult to even consider saying yes to serve in public office if you have this thing hanging over your head.”

Godongwana and Sizani were recently sworn in as ANC parliamentarians. Godongwana was also tipped to become the new deputy finance minister, but in the end President Kgalema Motlanthe settled for MP Nhlanhla Nene.

Asked whether the applicants would consider legal action against Balindlela if the report is nullified, Godongwana said it is possible: ‘That is certainly still an option which we will pursue once this process has run its course.”

The applicants argue the report was released long after the mandate of the commission has expired and that they were not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

The commission found evidence in favour of allegations of corruption and mismanagement pertaining to loans given to family members of the four men while they were in office.

Balindlela’s successor, Mbulelo Sogoni, is opposing the application but Judge Pillay has, according to Godongwana, said he would abide by the court’s ruling on the application and not oppose the application.

In the founding affadavit the four men state they are not guilty of any wrongdoing and Balindlela disclosed the contents of the report to the media ‘for an ulterior purpose, namely to embarrass [us] and prejudice us politically and in order to advance herself politically. Moreover, the then premier was herself under political pressure, particularly arising from criticism levelled at her relating to the administration of the Eastern Cape Province. The premier, by making the contents of the report known at this late stage, clearly sought to embarrass the applicants politically and thereby to deflect criticism from herself.”

The premier’s office has not filed answering affidavits yet and therefore the court date for the hearing has not been set.

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