Bank accounts frozen as SIU takes on PPE fraud — but Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku's is not one of them

Special Tribunal hearing postponed to November 20 and 21

06 October 2020 - 14:43
Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku (right) is on a temporary leave of absence while an investigation is conducted into allegations of PPE tender corruption.
Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku (right) is on a temporary leave of absence while an investigation is conducted into allegations of PPE tender corruption.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/The Sunday Times

Suspended Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku might be named among 44 respondents that the Special Investigating Unit has flagged over allegedly dodgy personal protective equipment tender irregularities, but his bank account was not one of those to be frozen.

The Special Tribunal of SA on Monday was meant to hear arguments in the matter between the SIU and the 44 respondents — including Gauteng-based contractors — involved in the supply and delivery of Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).

Masuku’s name appears as respondent 41.

TimesLIVE had earlier been informed that Masuku's was one of the accounts that had been frozen but Special Tribunal spokesperson Selby Makgotho later backtracked after a complaint from Masuku, who has been placed on “special leave” pending the probe.

Makgotho said that the freezing of the bank accounts applied only to respondents one to 39.

“The Special Tribunal incorrectly stated that all 44 accounts were frozen. As per the tribunal order only respondents one to 39 have their accounts frozen. MEC Bandile Masuku is cited as respondent 41. However, the order freezing the accounts does not extend to him. He is cited in the papers by virtue of the position of his office. The misunderstanding is regretted,” Makgotho told TimesLIVE on Monday night.

TimesLIVE apologies for the error in the earlier version of this story.

On Tuesday, judge Billy Mothle postponed the hearing to November 20 and 21 because some respondents were not ready with their papers. He expressed the desire to start proceedings as soon as possible after some respondents requested a date in December.

“An order was made in August and all respondents had five days to state if they were opposing the order. They also had an additional 15 days to file answering affidavits,” Mothle said.

Before postponing the hearing, the judge granted all 44 respondents until October 12 to file their papers. “After this date I’m not accepting any affidavits,” he said.

He also cautioned that all respondent should file their heads of argument no later than October 28. “I want to finish this matter before the end of November,” he said.

Before adjourning, the judge heard that there was a mistake when banks froze all the accounts and not those affected by the interim order.

Mothle clarified that freezing bank accounts of respondents is applicable only to the extent specified in the order.

“If a respondent has one account, the banks are allowed to freeze only the amount specified in the order,” he explained.

He ordered his administrators to amend the order and the SIU to communicate with banks.

In August, the tribunal granted an urgent application by the SIU to freeze R38.7m held in the contractors' bank accounts. The companies are linked to a Gauteng health department PPE tender that was allegedly irregularly obtained.

The tribunal is chaired by judge Gidfonia Mlindelwa Makhanya and has a statutory mandate to recover public funds siphoned from the fiscus through corruption, fraud and illicit money flows.

In the interim order, the tribunal interdicted the Gauteng department of health from making further payments to Ledla Structural Development (Pty) Ltd and 39 other respondents.

The same order also interdicted the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) from releasing the pension money and benefits to the former departmental CFO, Mantsu Kabelo Lehloenya, pending the institution of civil proceedings before the tribunal.

Companies and individual accounts at the centre of the PPE scandal are:

  1. Ledla Structural Development,
  2. K Manufacturing and Supply,
  3. Mediwaste Packaging,
  4. Atturo Tyres,
  5. BLSM Services,
  6. Vivid Sights Projects,
  7. PNE Graphics,
  8. Maela Distribution and Projects,
  9. Atland Chemicals,
  10. PHM Holdings,
  11. Nutri,
  12. Lloyd Mthobeki,
  13. Rhulani Mboweni Lehong,
  14. Kgodisho Lehong,
  15. Hellmann Worldwide Logistics,
  16. Double Click BTC,
  17. Skyline Contractors,
  18. Home Vision Projects,
  19. XC Logic,
  20. Ronen Barashi,
  21. Yuchang Xiao,
  22. Mpho Mafenyane,
  23. Xingyu Plastic Recycling,
  24. Mortz Marketing Enterprise,
  25. Injemo Engineering and Plastic Products,
  26. Buhle waste,
  27. Api Property Group,
  28. Sasol SA,
  29. Mutasa Tool and Die Engineering,
  30. Empiru,
  31. Botslee,
  32. Yonglian Lin,
  33. Mapiti Aaron Molopa,
  34. Jonathan Maake,
  35. Jamac Technological,
  36. Manikensis Investments,
  37. Angelic Julian Groenewald,
  38. Micheal Gerad Rofail,
  39. Patric Kalil,
  40. Royal Bhaca Projects,
  41. MEC: Gauteng health department,
  42. Mantsu Kabelo Lehloenya,
  43. Government Employees Pension Fund, and
  44. Administration Agency.

Royal Bhaca Projects is owned by Thandisizwe Diko, who is married to President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko. Diko and Masuku are on special leave during the investigation.

Masuku's fate will be known by Friday at the latest after Gauteng premier David Makhura indicated he had been receiving regular updates from the SIU on the investigation into procurement irregularities regarding PPE.

Several other officials were implicated in the SIU report, including the head of the provincial department of health, Prof Mkhululi Lukhele, who resigned last week. He is not included in the list of respondents.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that Masuku's bank account had been frozen. This information was provided by the Special Tribunal. The tribunal has since rectified this, and this story has been changed to accurately reflect the facts. TimesLIVE apologises for the error.

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