PRETORIA, July 28 – South African political party Economic Freedom Fighters on Tuesday demanded that the embattled member of the executive council for health in Gauteng Bandile Masuku step down amidst a growing furore after the provincial government awarded a R125 million (US$7.6 million) contract for personal protective equipment (PPE) to the husband of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Khusela Diko.
In a statement, EFF acting provincial chairman Itani Mukwevho said the party was “disgusted” at how Masuku handled the awarding of the contract to Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko’s Royal Bhaca Projects and said he should step down pending a probe by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). The Dikos are reportedly family friends of Masuku and his wife.
“Gauteng EFF demands a thorough investigation into the awarding of all PPE contracts since the beginning of the lockdown,” Mukwevho said.
“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 gain management and inflating prices above National Treasury guidelines.”
Mukwevho said it was not a coincidence that over 90 companies involved in questionable PPE contracts in Gauteng had links to politically connected individuals.
“It is the consequence of a contract 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 added.
He said while the EFF welcomed the SIU investigations into tenders awarded by the Gauteng health department, it wanted a comprehensive internal investigation into the alleged influence of Masuku’s chief of staff David Maimela, who allegedly played a critical role in giving the contract to Diko’s husband.
“We call on the MEC (member of the executive council) to immediately vacate his office to allow for the SIU investigation into Gauteng health as well as his chief of staff,” Mukwevho said.
“Finally, we call on the Premier David Makhura and his administration particularly the department of health and those in the supply chain to respect the state resources during these trying times.”
On Monday, the Presidency said Diko, who is also a member of the Gauteng provincial executive committee of the ruling African National Congress, had taken leave of absence from all of her official duties pending an investigation into the alleged tender irregularities involving her husband.
The Sunday Independent newspaper broke the story last week, saying Royal Bhaca Projects had received part of a R2.2 billion ($133 million) PPE tender awarded to 75 companies – over three months – by Gauteng’s health department. Royal Bhaca Projects was allegedly awarded contracts that amounted to R47 million and R78 million. The prices for the equipment the company supplied were also severely inflated, the report said.
Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu, who is Khusela Diko’s immediate supervisor, said he had accepted her request for leave of absence pending the investigation.
The South African National Civic Organisation in Gauteng has also called for Masuku to “step aside”.
– African News Agency (ANA)