Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

We have noted attempts by a certain section of the media and the DA to do the impossible: paint tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu as corrupt. These attempts will not stick as she is not corrupt, and everybody in country knows she is not corrupt.

DA MP Emma Powell does not know anything about the corruption cases brought by the same minister. She is just a tool for propaganda. The minister has instituted several criminal cases against senior officials within the water & sanitation department and a number of other entities under her former portfolio. These cases have led to the arrest of the former Lepelle Northern Water CEO, the resignation of the former Amatola Water CEO, and the dismissal of the supply chain management manager in Amatola Water.

These cases are being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit and Hawks, and the minister has reported them to the same committee Powell serves on. She must tell the nation what she has done to ensure everyone reported by the minister is arrested.

The people of this country have been waiting for corruption to be crushed. Right under Powell’s nose Sisulu has been investigating these cases, and now she is crying over nothing. The auditor-general would have picked it up if there were irregularities. Powell also knows the minister has asked the public protector to investigate her issues and is awaiting the final report.

One of the basic tenets of journalism is that journalists should maintain independence from those they cover and avoid being seduced by “sources”. Sadly, the media outlets Powell ran to failed dismally in this task and allowed themselves to be used by a politician on a mission of self-interest.

Let me be clear: there was nothing wrong with the media outlets hosting the politician. However, ethical and objective journalism demands that those against whom allegations are made should be given a chance to state their side of the story.

In her media crusade Powell decided to single out one member of Sisulu’s advisory panel, Mphumzi Mdekazi, who she insinuated was a burden on the taxpayer. She falsely stated that Mdekazi had claimed R1.76m on travel and accommodation since May 2019. She added that the claims were in addition to an “already hyperinflated” monthly salary of R142,920 Mdekazi received as an advisory committee member for 15 days’ work a month.

First, the accusation that Mdekazi claimed R1.76m is inaccurate, and is meant to give the impression that this amount was paid to Mdekazi after he submitted a claim. In fact, the amount that was paid went directly into the bank account of a travel agency contracted by the department of water & sanitation.

During the hard lockdowns level 4 and 5 there were no flights and people had to drive long distances because of their dedication. This team had an innovative way of bringing water to communities and was highly praised by the National Council of Provinces. These members of the panel and the department’s national rapid response task team had to monitor water tanks and tankers during the hard lockdowns throughout the country.

Mdekazi and Lulu Johnson were given specific tasks by the chair of the panel, Dr Michele Kruger, to attend to all water and sanitation challenges in all provinces.

A critical question that must be asked is whether there was value for money in what was paid to Mdekazi. And the answer is a resounding yes. Powell knows this very well. Here are the facts: Mdekazi recovered R84m at Amatola Water, where the former CEO and wife of the Eastern Cape premier were implicated.

He again uncovered irregularities in an evergreen social facilitation tender (2020/030) of R54m paid by the Umgeni Water Board although no work was done.

Mdekazi also uncovered R99m and R17m at the Sedibeng Water Board for the Namaqualand and Walmagarara Water projects respectively in the Northern Cape, and R95m at Lepelle Northern Water, paid irregularly to two different companies. When Sisulu was moved to her new portfolio, Mdekazi was busy with the corruption in the bucket eradication programme.

If Powell and her party are serious about fighting corruption, why are they not demanding answers on the progress of the criminal cases opened against the former CEO of the Amatola Water and several other high-profile figures implicated in the looting of this water board?

In this regard, Sisulu will in due course report Powell to the parliamentary ethics committee for taking parliamentary questions to the media without the permission of the speaker of parliament and the relevant portfolio committee.

Steve Motale
Spokesperson for tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu

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