Cape Town – “The noose of justice is closing around the necks of former Free State politicians such as Mosebenzi Zwane and Ace Magashule as officials are no longer willing to fall on their swords to protect their former political heads.”
This is the view of the DA, who released a statement on Friday after former Free State human settlements MEC Zwane made some damning statements at the Zondo commission of inquiry on Friday.
His testimony is linked to a Free State housing project which saw millions of rand being wasted in illegal prepayments to contractors and suppliers for work not delivered.
Witnesses, consisting of former officials from the department, testified it was Zwane’s idea to conceive a scheme to appoint 106 contractors to build 14 000 houses in 2010.
The witnesses said Zwane pushed for certain contractors to be appointed and for prepayments to be made which fell outside of procurement processes.
Zwane admitted that the appointment of contractors outside an open tender process for the R1.4 billion housing project was wrong, but said the go-ahead was given by the provincial executive council at the time, led by then premier and current ANC secretary-general Magashule.
He also said he cannot be held responsible for unlawful decisions, testifying that then head of the department, Mpho Mokoena, should take the fall for mismanagement and poor financial decisions.
Regarding the process of ’’handpicking’’ companies to do the job – some of whom had been rejected during the failed open tender process – Zwane fingered Mokoena as the man who allegedly came up with the scheme.
This did not, however, concur with what Mokoena had to say earlier in the week, who accused Zwane of having compiled the list of companies himself.
Zwane also testified that he was unaware of the existence of a Housing Act when he held the position of MEC for human settlements.
The DA said: ’’It is no coincidence that Mosebenzi Zwane was appointed to departments such as Human Settlements and Agriculture and Rural Development in the Free State that resulted in the R1 billion housing and the R380 million Vrede Dairy scandals.
“It is becoming blatantly apparent that Zwane was handpicked to be the political head of departments that were earmarked for looting.
“In his defence, Zwane’s testimony and defence at the Zondo Commission regarding the housing issue is based on ignorance of the law and government tender procedures while deliberately throwing the implicated officials under the bus of accountability.
“This is not new in the Free State where officials are similarly facing criminal charges in the Vrede Dairy and other allegations of corruption, while politicians have yet to be charged.
“Zwane’s self-confessed ignorance of the law and the requirements for his position is a mere smoke screen, but should be cause for concern since he was promoted from a mayor to MEC and then to national minister under ANC-run governments. It appears that ignorance is in all probability a requirement for promotion in the ANC.
“His use of ignorance is. However, tantamount to extreme arrogance as he undermines the intelligence of all those who are viewing his interrogation at the commission.
“The current premier of the Free State, Sefora Ntombela, was former Human Settlements MEC in the Magashule administration and gave an undertaking in 2016 to investigate the R1 billion housing scandal.
’’To date she has avoided all accountability and responsibility as the political head of the provincial government with the authority and resources to ensure investigations and accountability regarding all allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
’’The corruption in the Free State has ensured that the province remains one of the poorest in the country with high levels of unemployment, collapsed services and human degradation. These scandals prove how corruption makes poor people poorer.
’’The outrage with which Free State residents and other South Africans view the latest testimonies of both officials and politicians at the Zondo Commission is legitimate.
’’The Free State provincial government funds have been low hanging fruit for corrupt politicians, officials and tenderpreneurs alike for more than a decade.
’’Our people in the province want to see nothing less that politicians in orange Correctional Services overalls, and the stolen money recouped from those inside and outside of the province who have stolen it.
’’While there is so much controversy about the abuse of tenders, there remains one tender that will bring relief to residents of the province, which is the tender for the orange overalls.
“The DA is willing to provide the political name tags for such overalls free of charge.“