RIGHT OF REPLY: Lebogang Maile
Last week, a story by your award-winning journalist Sabelo Skiti, “Gauteng audit follow-up heightens ANC split”, refers.
The timing of the story is very suspicious and it leads one to conclude that the Mail & Guardian’s newsdesk has been captured or co-opted by some faceless sources or individuals to tarnish my political reputation and standing in society in order to achieve political ends.
It is quite unfortunate that a newspaper of the M&G’s reputation and stature can be used by faceless sources as a propaganda tool to peddle lies and falsehoods under the guise of investigative journalism.
Clearly, the story was manufactured under the pretext that it will gain credence in the public domain because it involves me. This is so, given my privileged position of serving as the MEC of economic development, environment, agriculture and rural development in Gauteng, the economic powerhouse of our country and continent.
Second, its poisonous intention is to influence the leadership outcomes at the forthcoming ANC Gauteng provincial conference scheduled to sit later this month.
According to the M&G and its sources: “Maile, with [Paul] Mashatile’s backing, is being touted as a candidate for deputy provincial chair, whereas [David] Makhura’s backers reportedly want Parks Tau to fill the position.” If you read between the lines, a wedge is being driven to supposedly “heighten the ANC split” ahead of the conference and Premier Makhura’s name is being opportunistically mentioned and manipulated. If the truth be told, the current administration has prioritised the eradication of corruption and maladministration in the province.
The shortcomings of the department in meeting its service delivery targets is being desperately used as a point of entry to tarnish my name and in the process make an attempt to destroy my reputation. Equally, the main sources of the story have selectively fabricated and distorted issues pertaining to the alleged falling-out between me and the head of the department, Nhlakanipho Nkontwana.
The alleged falling-out is informed by rumour-mongering or misappropriation of facts regarding the concerned senior officials we are being accused of shielding from being disciplined for flouting supply chain regulations. The accusation is not only malicious, reckless, irresponsible and devoid of truth but it is also aimed at misleading the public into concluding that we support and protect corruption.
To be blunt, chief financial officer Ismail Abdullah and chief director of communications Roleta Lebelo are not my skivvies. The two officials were recruited into the public service, just like thousands of others, based on their skills, credentials and competencies. If there are any findings of wrongdoing on their part and breaches of supply chain management regulations and rules, they must face the might of the law.
Au contraire, I will be the first to act decisively, informed by my executive responsibilities, as it cannot be my responsibility to protect them or anyone else for that matter. I have no business protecting any individuals, because our main task as leaders of government is to deliver on the electoral promises, commitments and mandate of the governing party, the ANC, and to pursue the fifth administration in Gauteng’s agenda of radical transformation, modernisation and reindustrialisation.
What is quite disturbing is the fact that an internal and confidential pending matter still undergoing due government process has been planted in the newsroom for narrow, factional politics, bearing reckless and misleading conclusions with serious legal ramifications on the rights of the affected officials in terms of the due process that must be followed when such matters are being dealt with.
[Lebogang Maile writes that the Mail & Guardian intended to drive a wedge to ‘heighten the ANC split’ with the backing of Paul Mashatile, he was being touted as a candidate for the position of the party’s deputy chair in Gauteng in opposition to Parks Tau, who is preferred by the backers of the party’s acting Gauteng chairperson, David Makhura (right). (Paul Botes/M&G)]
It is imperative to remind the media that the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and a right to just administrative action are peremptory and enshrined in the Constitution under the Bill of Rights.
The media cannot be used to abuse or to encroach on the fundamental rights of anyone. As things stand, the matter is sub judice and is in its final phase of conclusion, with the premier’s office overseeing the process.
Given the commitment of the provincial government to dealing decisively with corruption, given the magnitude of these allegations, it is standard practice that the premier gets involved through his office in managing the process as the ultimate accountable executive authority of the province. There is absolutely nothing new and different about the premier’s involvement herein.
The veracity of the Enviro Mobi contract, for the supply of three-wheeler motorised bicycles for waste pickers, to the tune of R26-million, is an issue that will be resolved speedily and conclusively. Already, there are internal processes under way to deal with the matter and an instruction has been given to the head of department to finalise it.
I refuse to allow my name to be dragged through the mud or sacrificed at the altar of political opportunism and factional. My conscience is clean, and I continue to execute my responsibilities guided by the revolutionary values and principles of the ANC.
If there is any finding of wrongdoing on anyone’s part, we will act with the necessary alacrity and decisiveness to ensure that our reputation as a government that is committed to clean governance is not compromised and our focus on giving the people of Gauteng opportunities for a better life is not derailed in any way.
Lebogang Maile is the MEC of economic development, environment, agriculture and rural development in Gauteng