EFF calls on Gauteng MEC Masuku to step down amid COVID-19 tender allegations
JOHANNESBURG – The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Gauteng on Tuesday called on Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku to step down with immediate effect pending an investigation into whether he influenced the awarding of a R125 million tender for personal protective equipment (PPE) issued by the provincial Health Department.
The red berets also want Masuku’s Chief of Staff, David Maimela, to step aside.
This followed a Sunday Independent report linking Masuku and his wife, Loyiso Lugayeni-Masuku, to the contract awarded to amaBhaca King Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, the husband of Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko.
The Presidency on Monday said that Diko had taken leave from her government duties pending the outcome of the investigation. She and her husband maintain that the contract was cancelled and they never benefited from any money.
Masuku in a statement on Sunday denied the allegations, saying that he had always acted with integrity and conviction and strongly denied any suggestion that the COVID-19 procurement process was being used to raise funds for upcoming conferences of the African National Congress (ANC).
In a statement, the EFF’s Gauteng interim chairperson Itani Mukwevho demanded a thorough investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) into all PPE contracts since the beginning of the national lockdown earlier this year in March.
“It has become clear that COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for the politically connected to dispense political patronage by awarding their friends government monies meant to fight the pandemic while disregarding proper supply chain management above National Treasury guidelines,” Mukwevho said.
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the looting of COVID-19 funds and announced that he had signed a proclamation to empower the SIU to investigate corruption involving the funds. The SIU is already investigating at least 90 companies in Gauteng alone for allegedly receiving irregular contracts from the provincial Department of Health.
Mukwevho said that while the EFF welcomed the probe by the SIU, they further called for a full internal investigation into the alleged influence of the health MEC’s chief of staff who is said to have played a critical role in the awarding of the contract to Diko’s husband.
They also want the investigation to include the alleged restructuring of staff in the department, especially at the supply chain level.
Mukwevho said that it was not a coincidence that the companies alleged to be involved in questionable PPE contracts in the province were linked to politically connected individuals.
“It is the consequence of a contracting state that outsources all its functions to parasitic individuals and companies whose motive is money, and not to save lives. We have long argued that the tender system in South Africa is a method used to loot state coffers by exploitative companies and the only way to avoid this is to build state capacity to manufacture goods and services,” he said.
The ANC’s alliance partner, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday also called for Masuku to step aside. The trade union federation said that those implicated in irregular tender processes linked to COVID-19 relief funds should do the honourable thing and take special leave.
Meanwhile, the provincial ANC leadership is expected to convene a special provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting to discuss the corruption allegations.
This was after the governing party met with Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Masuku on Monday over the matter.
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