Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane renovated his private residence with portions of the R3.3-million that the province had set aside to commemorate the life of late struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
These were the damning findings in a report released by the office of the public protector, which found that the Eastern Cape government, working with the Mbizana local municipality, misused the R3.3-million allocated for the memorial service, as well as other celebratory events, to honour Madikizela-Mandela in April 2018.
The struggle stalwart was born and raised in Bizana, which currently falls under Mbizana.
After finding a raft of criminal intent by Mabuyane and his government colleagues, including contraventions of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, the public protector’s office said it had referred the matter to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) for criminal investigation.
Mabuyane, who was the provincial head of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism at the time; transport, safety and liaison MEC Weziwe Tikana; as well as former human settlements MEC Babalo Madikizela, who is now head of public works, “improperly benefitted from the misuse of public funds”, according to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
The saga began in August 2018 when Eastern Cape businessman Lonwabo Bam, received two tranches of payments – R1.1-million and R2.2-million – from Mbizana municipal manager Luvuyo Mahlaka, who paid the money into Mthombeni Projects, which is owned by Bam.
The Mail & Guardian first reported in 2019 about the contentious relationship between Bam, the Mbizana municipality, Madikizela and Mabuyane, in which Bentleys and home renovations were the order of the day from money received by Bam.
The public protector investigation was based on an affidavit deposed by Bam, who detailed that the money was deposited into his business account by Mahlaka at the instruction of Madikizela.
“A number of deposits and transactions or disbursements were subsequently made by Mr Bam towards various proxy bank accounts linked to senior and executive government officials, as instructed by Mr Madikizela,” the public protector said.
The probe found that private businesses, including taxi associations, “improperly benefitted” from the public funds, and senior officials did not leave themselves out of the ill-gotten loot.
Mabuyane, for example, deposited R450 000 to Allan Morran Design Architectural Services – a private company that carried out renovations at his private house. Morran, according to the investigation, queried the payment as it was unknown to him.
“At that point, Mr Mabuyane’s wife, Ms Siyasanga Mabuyane, advised Mr Morran, through an email, that the deposit of R450 000 was to be used for renovations of the [Mabuyane] private house. Despite this, Mr Mabuyane denied any knowledge of the arrangements between Mr. Bam and Mr. Madikizela,” the report said.
Madikizela himself benefitted to the tune of R350 000 through payments into the account of a company owned by his wife, Zona Zetu Siyazithanda Madikizela, while the provincial ANC scored R280 000.
“The financial benefits that accrued to Mr Mabuyane, Mr Madikizela and the ANC raise a suspicion of a commission of criminal conduct in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 [or the] Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004. Accordingly, this aspect has been referred to [the Hawks] for criminal investigation,” the report stated.
As part of her remedial action, Mkhwebane said she had referred the matter to the Hawks because the “investigation has undeniably proven that the nature of the allegations and complaint … are largely [a] of criminal nature and may not be executed fully by the public protector”.
Mkhwebane further directed that the speakers of the provincial legislature and the Mbizana council should table these reports within 60 days from Friday, and that disciplinary proceedings should be instituted against the implicated officials, including Mabuyane.