Inside Mpumalanga’s Mandela memorial R70m heist

The Public Protector’s report implicates only two people as being behind Mpumalanga’s R70 million Nelson Mandela memorial “heist”, but only one seems to take the rap.

Once upon a time, Mpumalanga a very respected, renowned politician and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela died.

“A special meeting of Premiers was called by the Minister in the Presidency, the late Minister Collins Chabane where they were informed about the ten (10) day mourning period,” said former Mpumalanga director-General, Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, when interviewed by the Public Protector.

She failed to provide the PP the date of the said meeting. The problem is that the convenor of the meeting also died afterwards. The PP, however, forgot to verify the authenticity of the claim with other DG’s or premiers.

Ultimately, PP, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, at the end of her investigation, found that the appointment of Carol Bouwer at a cost of over R40 million, was irregular.

“The allegation that the Mpumalanga Office of the Premier irregularly appointed Carol Bouwer Productions to manage former President Nelson Mandela Memorial Service is substantiated,” she said.

Mkhwebane, however, implicates only two people, a July Dlamini and Mkhize, who is now a DG in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mkhwebane’s report is silent on the role of the politicians, even though they were in the forefront of justifying the R70 million expenditure, which Mkhawebane described as “unconscionable”.

“All five memorial services  and prayer sessions were conducted with utmost humility and respect. The gatherings were attended by the political leadership from national, provincial and local spheres of government, people from all walks of life, all races, all age groups and all religions,” said Mabuza through his then spokesperson, Nonkululeko Mbatha, on 17 December 2013.

But in a report by Carol Bouwer, dated 11 December 2013, she says only three events took place and the other two were cancelled.

“Further to the discussions held regarding the cancellation of the last two events, due to bad weather predicted, we have done our best to negotiate with suppliers for reduced cancellation fees and where possible non payment at all,” reads a letter dated 11 December 2013 signed by Bouwer.

During a press conference on 20 March 2014, Candith Mashego, who is now the deputy minister for international relations, repeated the same misinformation:

“While providing the political guidance and ensuring dignified memorial services for our late former President, as a political committee mandated by the Honourable Premier, we would like to reiterate our stance that we are satisfied with the manner all five memorial services were handled. We received value for money,” said Mashego at the time.

Mashego also defended Mkhize at the time:

“The Director-General duly complied with the regulations in that two deviations were authorized and all relevant and legally required information was contained in the said deviations. Furthermore a copy of the said deviations was duly submitted, as required, to both the provincial treasury as well as the office of the auditor-general,” said Mashego.

But the PP in her finding found that this was not true:

“Dr Mkhize, as the then accounting officer, failed to report the deviation process in the appointment of Carol Bouwer Productions and the amount involved to the Provincial Treasury and the Auditor-General. Her failure to report is in violation of section 25(4) of the PFMA, read with paragraphs 3.1 and 3.2 Practice Note 6 of 2007/08, paragraph 3.1.3 of Practice Note 8 of 2007108 and paragraph of the Supply Chain Management Policy of the Premier’s Office,” said Mkhwebane.

She was even more scathing on Mkhize’s conduct.

“The conduct of the Office of the Premier of Mpumalanga Province, particularly Dr Mkhize constitutes improper conduct as envisaged in section 182(1) of the Constitution, maladministration as envisaged in section 6(4)(a)(i) of the Public Protector Act,” said Mkhwebane.

What was more damning, however, was Mkhize’s decision to pay the money through the bank instead of using legitimate government procurement financial systems, the LOGIS and BAS.

“Dr Mkhize approved payments of suppliers to be made directly by the bank without going through the normal LOGIS and BAS systems that are used to record expenditures and keep records. She also failed to report to the Provincial Treasury and Auditor-General the goods and service procured in terms of the Treasury Regulation 16A6.4.

“Dr Mkhize’s conduct was in violation of clauses 3.1 and 3.2 of Practice Note 6 of 2007/08, and sections 25(4) and 38(1) of the PFMA,” she said.

Notwithstanding the scathing report, in her remedial action, Mkhwebane states that the Department of Priority Crimes (Hawks) must “Investigate any alleged criminal conduct against implicated parties for financial mismanagement in violation of the PFMA, specifically the incurring of R4, 5 Million additional expenses not supported by detailed documentation,” this was the money that Mkhize authorised that it be paid to Carol Bower, and only appears as “contingencies”.

She says nothing about the politicians who protected Mkhize throughout the past six years, and Dlamini who assisted Mkhize in the heist, namely MECs Mashego-Dlamini, Madala Masuku, Simon Skhosana and *Vusi Shongwe.

When Ziwaphi and other journalists asked questions about the scandal in 2014, the politicians claimed that the R70 million was worth the stature of Mandela.

The Public Protector, however, found that the R70 million was immoral and unreasonable.

* UPDATED version included the name of MEC Vusi Shongwe.

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