/ 10 February 2021

Eastern Cape MEC could face the chop under stand-aside rules

The Eastern Cape ANC MEC for health, Sindiswa Gomba has been relieved of her duties.

The Eastern Cape ANC MEC for health, Sindiswa Gomba, may be on her way out, if the stand-aside guidelines are adopted when the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meets this weekend. 

The Sowetan reports that Gomba and others face charges relating to a scandal over alleged misuse of funds meant for former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013.

Provincial Hawks spokesperson Captain Yolisa Mgolodela confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that the accused would appear in the East London court on Friday.

She said the years-old case related to the Nelson Mandela funeral had been reopened. 

The charges, which related to funds that were allegedly fraudulently diverted from the Buffalo City metro budget meant for the funeral of the former president, were provisionally withdrawn in 2019. 

The national director of public prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, then called for an urgent report, expressing her concern over the delay.  

Eastern Cape ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayitobi told the M&G that there was no indictment against Gomba yet. 

However, he said the provincial executive committee would wait for the NEC to make its decision on guidelines for the stand aside resolution before it acts against Gomba. 

“It’s a simple, straightforward issue. We are going to follow the protocols of the ANC in so far as that matter is concerned. We just pray the NEC completes the matter that relates to guidelines. That is our prayer because we are seen as an organisation that is unable, that is inconsistent, that is incoherent about implementing this particular matter,” he said. 

“We are still committed to the resolution that anybody who is facing prosecution must step aside from the organisation, but we have to give an opportunity for this particular guideline to be developed,” he said.

Ngcukayitobi stressed the importance of having an MEC with a reputation that is above reproach in the health portfolio, especially while the province, the epicentre of the second wave of Covid-19 infections in December, was lagging with getting vaccination sites ready.

“We are running a tight programme to fight against Covid-19. It’s important that we should have an upright leader in that particular position who will not be distracted by anything, including issues that relate to corruption allegations,” said Ngcukayitobi. “That leader should be in the forefront in the fight against coronavirus.” 

“Secondly, community and society must not question the integrity of the matters that relate to whatever that surrounds that individual. We need 100% attention of that particular individual in that particular position. That is why it is important that we have an individual whose reputation is above reproach,” he said. 

In December 2017, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane released a damning report which 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. 

She found R300-million had been misappropriated by the Eastern Cape government. 

Gomba has faced criticism before now regarding her health department’s response to the pandemic, most notably a disastrous R10-million “ambulance scooter” project. 

Gomba launched the project together with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize last year. Scooters purchased by the Eastern Cape health department and intended to transport patients did not meet basic requirements for patient transport as an ambulance.