Gomba gone: Mabuyane removes Eastern Cape health MEC

Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, who faces charges relating to a scandal over alleged misuse of funds meant for former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013, has been axed by premier Oscar Mabuyane

Mabuyane made this announcement during a media briefing on Thursday. She has been replaced by co-operative governance MEC Xolile Nqatha. 

Gomba’s firing comes after Mabuyane was instructed during the provincial working committee of the province that he had to deal urgently with tainted members in his executive. 

“In May last year I asked the president to proclaim SIU investigations on wrongdoing in our provincial government, regarding the procurement of PPE [personal protective equipment] in the Eastern Cape. Serious findings of misconduct against Gomba and Dr [Thobile] Mbengashe emerged over the way they handled procurement of PPE in the health department. I engaged both of them on the findings. I told them they must represent why action cannot be taken against them,” Mabuyane said.

A decision is yet to be taken on Mbengashe, pending an ongoing disciplinary process.

Before her appointment as health MEC, Gomba had faced a range of political embarrassments and allegations of corruption. In December 2017, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane released a damning report that exposed how officials in the Buffalo City metro misused money intended for service delivery, including ablution facilities, the refurbishment of schools, water, electricity and sanitation, under the guise of the Mandela funeral.

Mkhwebane found R300-million had been misappropriated by the Eastern Cape government. Last week, Gomba and others were released on bail in the East London court for charges related to the misuse of funds meant for Mandela’s funeral. The charges stem from when Gomba was a deputy mayor in Buffalo City metro.

Gomba has also faced criticism for her health department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, most notably the disastrous R10-million “ambulance scooter” project.

The project, which was launched with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, last year provided scooters intended to transport patients. These did not meet basic requirements for patient transport as an ambulance.

 Mabuyane expressed happiness that there was no public money used to procure this flawed tender award.

“All law enforcement agencies must know that people’s lives are not to be played with,” Mabuyane said.

“The people of the Eastern Cape need better leaders, our problems are big and need focused and responsible leadership. We assure the people of the Eastern Cape of our commitment to fight corruption,”he added.

“With MEC Gomba leaving, this will allow her time to deal with the other allegations levelled against her. She can do this without having the burden of running a collapsing health department. She will also remain as MPL in the Bhisho legislature.”

Mabuyane said Gomba’s sacking is a way of showing a commitment towards fighting corruption, and ensuring that the government does its work smoothly.

“If as an official you break government rules there must be consequences.”

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.
Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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