/ 20 April 2021

Guilty: ANC orders Diko to step aside

Khusela Diko And Cyril Ramaphosa
After initially failing to respond to detailed questions about an alleged R1-million Digital Vibes payout to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s former spokesperson, Khusela Diko, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on Monday turned around and said a report on the issue was untrue. (Elmond Jiyane/GCIS)

Suspended presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko has been told to step aside from her position as a member of the ANC Gauteng provincial executive committee (PEC) after she was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute by its provincial disciplinary committee (PDC). 

The committee has also recommended that Diko not return to work at the Union Buildings.  

This decision was accepted by the Gauteng PEC at a meeting held over the weekend.  

Diko and former health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku have been ordered to co-operate with the special investigating unit (SIU), embark on a self-training programme and submit a paper to ANC Gauteng provincial secretary Jacob Khawe’s office on a number of topics within six months. 

The two were ordered to step aside from all party positions and to desist from speaking on behalf of the organisation until the SIU investigation has been concluded. 

Khawe said while the PEC had no authority over Diko’s employment, it recommended that she “voluntarily and with a discussion with the employer, in the interest of the ANC, extend leave in the presidency until the SIU concludes its investigation”. 

“In the PEC, she must step aside, she must not exercise any function as a PEC member until the SIU concludes the matter,” Khawe said. 

He added that Masuku had written to his office to inform him that he was intending to appeal the decision, however he had not received any communication from the party’s appeals’ body in the national disciplinary committee (NDC). 

Diko has not indicated whether she will appeal the decision. 

“Until the NDC communicates that they have received a letter of appeal from comrade Masuku, we are firm and the decision stands. The PEC can still say [that] we respect the appeal [and] continue with the appeal but our decision still stands. Or the PEC can say we are not implementing our decision until the matter is concluded. That was not yet discussed,” Khawe said.

In a statement announcing his intent to appeal the ruling, Masuku said that the ANC relied on two newspaper articles by the Sunday Independent for its case against him. Masuku said the articles contained a “plethora of untested allegations which had been dispelled by the courts”. 

He added that there was no leading evidence on allegations of criminality and nepotism on his part as the SIU’s special tribunal cleared him of wrongdoing. He said the PDC sanction violated the basic principle of fairness, justice and “my ANC membership rights”. 

“In reaching its unfortunate decision, the PDC has ignored hard documentary evidence that shows that I did not speak or act in a manner that brings the ANC into disrepute. The ample evidence presented before the hearing shows that I issued several media statements in an attempt to correct any wrong media reports and to set the record straight by informing the public of the status of the personal protective equipment (PPE) investigation that was initiated by me, ahead of all the MEC’s at the time and before the news broke out on July 2020,” he said. 

This comes after Masuku failed to convince the courts to set aside the SIU’s preliminary report on the multibillion-rand Gauteng Covid-19 PPE graft scandal, which found he failed to provide oversight. 

The SIU found that Masuku had failed to execute his functions in compliance with the constitution and the Public Finance Management Act in his oversight of the procurement of PPE. 

In his statement Masuku, who claims to be an ally of the ANC’s “anti-corruption movement”, said he believed the extent of the charges against him were politically motivated and had little to do with good governance.   

“If the PDC wants to declare me as the proverbial sacrificial lamb, it must simply say so openly and not fudge its sanctions with external processes which were not even argued by the ANC in its evidence before the PDC.”  

The auditor general’s office called the procurement of PPEs the biggest target in Covid-19-related corruption, with billions misappropriated from public funds that were intended to manage the pandemic. 

Diko is also facing another disciplinary proceeding instituted by her employer in the office of the president. 

Mail & Guardian previously reported that Diko had been placed on precautionary suspension pending the outcome of her disciplinary hearing.

Diko was charged with failing to disclose her financial interests. 

She is still, however, drawing a salary, estimated to be R1.3 million a year. The M&G understands that Diko falls under the salary bracket of a government chief director. On that salary, Diko has been paid more than R650 000 while on special leave.

Diko took special leave after a report emerged that the company controlled by her husband, the now late Madzikane II Diko, was awarded a R125-million tender to supply PPE to the Gauteng health department.

Even after the contract was cancelled, a company called Ledla Structural Development, an alleged proxy for Madzikane II Diko’s Royal Bhaca, received more than R38-million from the department. Diko’s husband was the sole director of Royal Bhaca. He died in February. 

The scandal resulted in Masuku — a friend of the Dikos — getting the chop. 

ANC members have been at odds as the party attempts to clean up its image by implementing a resolution that party leaders charged by the courts should step aside.

The resolution has been the subject of fierce debate at national executive committee (NEC) meetings. Most recently, the NEC resolved to give party leaders including its secretary-general Ace Magashule 30 days to step aside or face suspension. 

Efforts to reach Diko were unsuccessful.