Shiceka hits back at public protector

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka has defended himself against Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, saying he will challenge it in a court of law. He said he would not be held liable for what the report called “a misuse of public funds”.

In Friday’s press statement he called Madonsela’s findings “baseless and lacking in evidence”.

Shiceka added he felt “that an injustice has being meted out against him and his rights have been crossly violated,” adding that he cooperated fully with the investigation”.

Speaking at the release of the final report into allegations against the minister for the misappropriation of public funds — which was handed over to the co-chairs of Parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members’ interest — Madonsela found Shiceka has acted unlawfully, was dishonest with public money and had contravened Cabinet’s executive ethics code as well as the Constitution.

The investigation was conducted after allegations surfaced early this year that Shiceka abused public funds, notably by visiting a former girlfriend in jail in Switzerland during December 2008 and staying at various luxury hotels at taxpayers’ expense, including while he was on official sick leave. Shiceka has been on sick leave since February.

Madonsela handed the report over to the co-chairs of Parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members’ interest, Buoang Mashile and Ben Turok, on Friday morning.

The minister’s responses were:

The controversial trip to Switzerland that cost tax payers R546 864, according to the protector’s report
Shiceka’s said that the trip to Switzerland in which he visited his jailed girlfriend was “indeed official and that it benefited South Africa during the preparations for the World Cup 2010”. He added that the president said in reply to a parliamentary question that the Shiceka’s visit to Switzerland was “official and beneficial to the country”.

The Lesotho trip that Shiceka made while on sick leave, for which the hotel has still not been paid according to the report.
“The honourable minister disputes that he booked in at Lesotho Sun hotel”. He argued that the room was booked under the name of Ms Ngesi and that Ms Ngesi would pay. “The minister further finds it peculiar as to who gave the public protector the permission to enter another country and conduct clandestine investigations and he will take up this matter with the government of Lesotho.”

Madonsela criticised Shiceka paying R55 793 to stay at the One and Only Hotel for one night in Cape Town and paying for Mntambo who he called “his father figure” but is not his father.

“The honourable minister maintains that Mr Mntambo is his father in terms of costmary practice [sic] and that all the expenses expended in this regard were within the relevant regulations and accordingly lawful.”

He added, “it is however unfortunate that the public protector’s office has deliberately dismissed our own customary law and practices and resolved to approach the matter in a eurocentric and minimalist way”.

Shiceka called her findings inconsistent, saying: “The minister notes with great concern a number of glaring inconsistencies in the public protector’s findings in comparison to other similar cases she conducted prior to this investigation.”

On Madonsela’s findings that he violated the ministerial handbook.
Shiceka said he did not violate the ministerial handbook and therefore was “not as such liable for breach of any regulation[s] as implied by the public protector’s findings”. He said Madonsela was misleading in ordering him to “reimburse the state”.

Terms of reference of the investigation
Shiceka maintained that Madonsela went beyond the terms of reference of the investigation as set out by the ethics committee. He likened her investigation to a “fishing trip solely intended to discredit him — rather that dealing with facts”.

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Lynley Donnelly
Lynley Donnelly
Lynley is a senior business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. But she has covered everything from social justice to general news to parliament - with the occasional segue into fashion and arts. She keeps coming to work because she loves stories, especially the kind that help people make sense of their world.

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