/ 5 December 2017

How #MadibaFuneral was used to loot state money

Posters are set up outside the Nelson Mandela museum in Qunu during the period of the icon's funeral.
Posters are set up outside the Nelson Mandela museum in Qunu during the period of the icon's funeral.

An explosive report by the public protector sets out how R300-million meant for fixing roads, replacing mud schools and getting water to the most rural parts of the Eastern Cape was reallocated for marquees, musicians, T-shirts and food for mourners at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s Mandela Funeral report has revealed how the provincial government was left flat footed without a plan for the range of memorial activities and logistics for Madiba’s funeral in 2013.

The 93-year-old statesman died in Johannesburg on December 5 four years ago on Tuesday. His state funeral was the first ever burial of a former head of state in democratic South Africa and after 12 days of mourning, was held in Qunu in rural Eastern Cape.

Despite Madiba being hospitalised for an extended period of time and the R300-million being channelled to the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) for funeral plans in October 2013, the government had still not co-ordinated any memorial events by the time he died.

Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report fingers the former head of the provincial treasury, Marion Mbina-Mthembu, as irregularly reallocating money meant for the service delivery to organise the funeral.

The report shows that Mbina-Mthembu held discussions with different state departments and entities from 2011 about Madiba’s funeral.

“Yet, when President Zuma announced on 5 December 2013 that a state funeral would be held for President Mandela in the Eastern Cape, there was no provision for the associated expenditure in the provincial budget,” Mkhwebane found.

“There was also no costed plan in place for the procurement of goods and services by the ECPG [provincial government],” the public protector continued.

Other key findings include that the provincial treasury irregularly paid R6-million to Victory Ticket, a transport company hired to ferry mourners to different venues.

The day after Madiba died, the Eastern Cape government convened an executive meeting where Mbina-Mthembu recommended that the ECDC be appointed paymaster for the goods and services required for the funeral arrangements, the public protector found. R22-million of the funds was sourced from an ECDC infrastructure grant.

At that meeting, Mbina-Mthembu decided that everything would be sourced from suppliers through a deviation of normal tender processes, and told the MECs and premiers that all invoices should be submitted to the provincial treasury, after which ECDC would make the payments.

“The conduct of Ms Mbina-Mthembu in approving and authorising procurement of goods and services relating to the funeral was in violation of the provisions of section 217 of the Constitution, section 38 of the PFMA, [and] Treasury Regulations,” Mkhwebane found.

The wasteful expenditure during the 12 days of mourning and on the day of the funeral included 10 four and five-star rooms for musician Zaharah and her band, flights and minibus hire.

The Loliwe singer was booked by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) to perform alongside poet Mzwakhe Mbuli and the Lusanda Spiritual Group in East London the day before the funeral.

The total cost of booking the singer and her band through MM Communications was R359 160, Mkhwebane found.

But on the day of the performance, there was no audience or audiovisual equipment in the marquee. The venue had allegedly been taken over by by the BBC News service, MM Communications’ Mandlakazi Mphahlwa told the public protector during the investigation.

The ECPTA was also singled out for securing a “mini-state house” in Qunu to host provincial and national dignitaries for meetings at a cost of R175 000 during the 12 days of mourning. This was not included in the provincial government’s plans and constituted additional spending, the public protector found.

“The provision of such as base assisted in managing the province’s reputation to show the world that the ECPTA was willing to go the extra mile to provide facilities to enable government to operate effeciently,” former director for destination tourism Eddie Marafane told Mkhwebane’s team.

Among the dignitaries expected at the house, which was only a few kilometers away from the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, was former Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiwiet, former ministers Dipuo Peters and Yunnus Carrim and then public workers minister Thulas Nxesi.