Nomusa Dube-Ncube. Picture: THULI DLAMINI
Nomusa Dube-Ncube. Picture: THULI DLAMINI

DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango has been slapped with a R1.5m lawsuit for defamation after he accused KwaZulu-Natal co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube of awarding tenders worth more than R15m to Brand Partners‚ where her husband, Sibusiso Justin Ncube, is a director of communications.

The DA has vowed to defend Mncwango and says it will not retract the claims he made in a media statement in June, in which he said Dube-Ncube’s husband had benefited financially as result of her actions.

In a letter to KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu‚ signed by Mncwango‚ the DA alleged that Dube-Ncube awarded Brand Partners a communications tender at the Nkandla municipality in December last year.

The letter said the contract was worth more than R7.5m‚ and the DA called for her immediate suspension.

Our client would have no alternative but to take such further action as she deems appropriate
Lawyers representing Nomusa Dube-Ncube

The DA said the other allegation of corruption against Dube-Ncube was related to Mthonjaneni municipality in Melmoth‚ where the party had evidence that Regulation 32 was used in the appointment of Brand Partners for a series of contracts and other related services worth R8.2m.

The DA gave Mchunu seven days to respond to its call for Dube-Ncube’s suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.

Dube-Ncube hit back with a lawyer’s letter on July 20‚ asking Mncwango to "unconditionally withdraw and apologise for the defamatory allegations", failing which "our client would have no alternative but to take such further action as she deems appropriate".

Dube-Ncube’s lawyers, PKX Attorneys, said Mncwango’s statement falsely alleged that she was involved in corrupt activities, when municipalities were a separate sphere of government and she was not responsible for, nor controlled, the awarding of municipal tenders.

The lawyers said the two municipalities had confirmed that Brand Partners was appointed in accordance with regulation 32 of the municipal chain management regulations of 2005.

The lawyer’s letter was followed by a R1.5m lawsuit for defamation against Mncwango, filed by Brand Partners on July 31 in the Durban High Court.

In the combined summons‚ the company said Mncwango’s statements were "wrongful and defamatory" and made with the intention to "injure its reputation".

"Apart from the defamatory meaning of the statements made by the defendant‚ the statements carried the additional sting that the plaintiff is not a law-abiding business entity and is involved in corruption and unlawful business activities‚" said the company.

The company said as result of Mncwango’s statement, it had suffered damage to its reputation and standing in the community to the amount of R1.5m.

Francois Rodgers, a DA member of the provincial legislature and the party’s spokesperson on finance, said the party would defend against both actions by Dube-Ncube and Brand Partners, and ensure any alleged irregularities were thoroughly scrutinised.

"This process would also go some way in interrogating the business relationship that Brand Partners has built with local government and the related awarding of substantial tenders‚" he said.

Dube-Ncube has previously been accused of putting municipal officials under pressure to flout tender procedures to award a multimillion-rand contract to her husband.

Sinosa Construction‚ a company where Ncube was a director‚ was one of the two companies awarded contracts worth R140m to supply water pipes by Umkhanyakude district municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal in 2014.

Former Umkhanyakude district municipal manager Musa Mzimela told the National Treasury that "experts" from Dube-Ncube’s department had told the municipality to bypass normal tender procedures in the awarding of two contracts worth R140m.

Sinosa was paid R69m and another company‚ Hall Longmore‚ R76m to deliver water pipes.

The auditor-general found the contracts to have been awarded irregularly. But Dube-Ncube’s department denied that it had advised the municipality to appoint the two companies.