DA leader slapped with R1.5-million lawsuit after accusing KZN MEC of nepotism
KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube is once again at the centre of controversy‚ this time involving the awarding of another multimillion-rand tender to a company linked to her husband.
DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango has been slapped with a R1.5m lawsuit for defamation after he accused Dube-Ncube of awarding tenders worth more than R15m to Brand Partners‚ where her husband Sibusiso Justin Ncube is a director of communications.
But the DA has vowed to defend Mncwango and have indicated that they will not retract the claims he made in a media statement in June in which he said Dube-Ncube’s husband had benefitted 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 worth in excess of R7.5m‚ and called for her immediate suspension.
The DA said the other allegation of corruption against Dube-Ncube was related to Mthonjaneni municipality in Melmoth‚ where they 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 has written to KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu‚ calling for the immediate suspension of the provincial MEC of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube‚ pending the outcome of an inquiry following damning information relating to her alleged involvement in massive corruption within the Nkandla and Mthonjaneni municipalities‚” said Mncwango in a statement.
He said while the DA had long been aware of wide-scale corruption within KZN municipalities‚ “the fact that the MEC herself is now at the centre of such a corruption scandal is unprecedented”.
The DA had given Mchunu seven days to respond to their call for Dube-Ncube’s suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.
But Dube-Ncube hit back with a lawyers’ 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 award of municipal tenders.
The lawyers said the two municipalities had confirmed that Brand Partners were appointed in accordance with regulation 32 of the municipal chain management regulations of 2005.
The lawyers’ 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 damages to its reputation and standing in the community to the amount of R1.5m.
DA member of the provincial legislature and party spokesperson on finance Francois Rodgers said they will defend against both actions by Dube-Ncube and Brand Partners and ensure that 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 which were 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.