/ 27 January 2015

DA challenges ANC to fire former MEC over alleged corruption

Brian Hlongwa was health MEC when the proceeds of corruption are said to have benefited the ANC.
Brian Hlongwa was health MEC when the proceeds of corruption are said to have benefited the ANC.

The ANC in Gauteng appears unwilling to buckle to pressure from the Democratic Alliance (DA) to fire its chief whip and former health MEC, Brian Hlongwa, who has been fingered for corruption.

On Monday the DA’s Jack Bloom called on Gauteng premier David Makhura to get rid of Hlongwa pending the outcome of a court case that implicates him in corruption that allegedly took place under his watch in the provincial department of health.

The Mail & Guardian first reported in July last year that, according to court papers, Hlongwa had been involved in corruption dating back to 2006. It was alleged that the ANC was a beneficiary of his actions and that Hlongwa allegedly acted as a conduit for bribes.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had lodged a series of applications at the Johannesburg high court asking for orders to freeze the assets of certain companies, and a house worth R7.2-million that was alleged to have been built, in part, with funds linked to donors who had done business with the Gauteng health department 

The NPA reportedly told the court that these assets were the proceeds of a crime.

Now the DA says it’s telling that the Baoki Consortium – at the centre of the disputed contracts – have indicated to the court that they do not intend to oppose the NPA’s asset forfeiture application against them.

A R1.4-billion contract
The consortium was awarded a R1.4-billion contract by the Gauteng health department in December 2007, to provide a health information system and electronic health records for Gauteng hospitals and clinics.

Bloom said that by not opposing the fact that a Baoki employee bought Hlongwa’s Bryanston home and rewarded him in other ways in an effort to shift the contract in their favour, It further added to the cloud of corruption hanging over Hlongwa’s head.

“While Hlongwa is innocent until proven guilty, and due process must be followed in this matter, there is a huge corruption cloud that hangs over his head that undermines Makhura’s pledge to run his administration with integrity and free of corruption,” Bloom told journalists.

ANC following internal process
The ANC said it would not be dictated to by the DA. “We are not held accountable by the DA. We have internal processes dealing with the matter,” said ANC Gauteng spokesperson Nkenke Kekana.

Kekana said the ANC’s integrity committee was in the final stages of concluding its investigation into Hlongwa.

The committee is made up of the party’s veterans and acts independently from the provincial leadership.

“The integrity committee has nothing to do with the court case. This is an internal process,” Kekana said.

Bloom however said failure to act against Hlongwa was a test of the ANC’s 2012 policy conference proposal [Mangaung congress] that all deployed ANC members in government must step down immediately when accused of misconduct or corruption.

“Makhura was quoted at the time as saying that stepping aside doesn’t mean a person is guilty, but the idea is that no one will be able to ‘hide behind’ the argument that they are innocent until proven guilty, and thereby worsen the ‘troubled image’ of the party,” Bloom noted.

He then added that Makhura needed to fire Hlongwa, “to distance himself from the increasing evidence of corruption against him”.

Makhura, through his spokesperson Nino Zama, was not available to comment because he was attending the ANC’s national executive committee lekgotla.

“We still live today with the dire consequences in our hospitals of the disastrous period when Hlongwa was health MEC,” Bloom said.