An “ill-founded” complaint related to the R125-million “perpetration of grotesque irregularities” in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) has seen former Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku’s legal challenge thrown out of court.
On Monday, the high court in Pretoria dismissed the review of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report brought by Masuku. He had sought to review findings that “administrative action” should be taken against him in the alleged corrupt buying of PPE as part of the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The SIU report had recommended to Gauteng Premier David Makhura that action be taken against Masuku for his alleged negligence, which supposedly began in March and April last year when “commitment letters” were signed to grant Royal Bhaca a combined R125.5-million contracts for PPE procurement.
Makhura axed Masuku in October, which elicited the former MEC’s review application of the SIU report.
In a statement released on his behalf by Mojalefa Motalane, the lawyer said Masuku welcomed the court’s ruling that there was no basis for civil action against him.
“Dr Masuku further welcomes the conclusion that ‘he is not accused of corruption or nepotism and that the so-called findings of the SIU are mere opinions that the premier should not have relied upon to make any form of decision against him,” Motalane said.
In its decision, the court said: “… the SIU was not at all irrational in forming its opinion. The SIU saw no crime having been committed by Dr Masuku. The SIU saw no basis for civil action against Dr Masuku.”
The court also asserted that Makhura had the prerogative to choose members of his executive. “It is accepted by the parties in this matter that the premier was entitled to appoint and remove MECs as he saw fit, pursuant to a prerogative he enjoyed.”
Motalane said: “Although, on the whole, the judgment removes any doubt in the eyes of the public that Dr Masuku was involved in any PPE procurement or benefited financially, this has been the public perception and it is now put to rest.”
Motalane added that they were studying the judgment, and that “appropriate action will be communicated as soon as possible”.
The full bench, led by Acting Deputy Judge President Roland Sutherland, found that the “public have a legitimate interest in the unmasking of incompetent public servants”.
The court slapped Masuku with a costs order, including for two senior counsel. It was a “misconception” for the former MEC to believe he had the right to view the outcomes before they were made public.
“When news of improprieties was brought to his attention, he was content to fob off the investigation to the internal auditors and take no steps to inform himself at all to assess the status quo and intervene urgently. In my view, the SIU was not at all irrational in forming its opinion,” Sutherland wrote.