Khusela Diko says husband's company did nothing wrong but shouldn't have applied for tender
President's spokesperson says Royal Bhaca Projects did not receive a cent
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said on Wednesday that she “regretted” her husband’s company seeking to do business with the Gauteng health department.
In a joint statement with her husband King Thandisizwe Diko, she admitted that there was public anger over reports that Madzikane’s company Royal Bhaca Projects was awarded R125m in tenders for personal protective equipment (PPE).
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The couple maintained that they had not earned a cent from allegedly questionable PPE tenders from the department.
“Over the last week, as individuals, a couple and a family, we have found ourselves at the centre of a media and public storm over a Gauteng health department PPE supply contract that was awarded to Royal Bhaca Projects and subsequently cancelled,” she said.
“Despite the absence of any illegality and confirmation that no public funds were ever paid to Royal Bhaca Projects — details of which will be further ventilated by the investigations — the matter continues to draw outrage from across society.”
The Dikos are friends with Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife, Loyiso, who is a member of the mayoral committee in the City of Johannesburg.
Masuku has been placed in a tight corner by the revelations, with mounting calls by ANC alliance partners in Gauteng for him to step aside from his post, in a similar manner to what Diko did from her duties as Ramaphosa's spokesperson.
His fate is up for discussion in a meeting of the ANC provincial executive committee, taking place on Wednesday.
In their statement, the Dikos however, maintained that there was no illegality involved with the granting of the tender.
Diko said she understood that allegations of state capture were playing into the anger — though she had voluntarily stepped down as Ramaphosa’s spokesperson pending an investigation into the claims.
She said she regretted that the company even applied for the tender in the first place.
“Although there was no corruption in the bidding and subsequent awarding of the PPE contract to Royal Bhaca Projects, we accept that years of cronyism have created an environment of mistrust and suspicion when individuals who are close to political office and influence are seen to be benefiting from the state in ways that may be unethical,” said the statement.
“We have attempted to rectify this matter by seeking to cancel the contract, and we deeply regret the error of judgment that led Royal Bhaca to seek to do business with this department in the first place.
“We support the measures that government has put in place to investigate and prosecute all instances of the misuse of funds related to the response to Covid-19.”
The two acknowledged the long-standing relationship they have with the Masuku family, which they said at some point led to them registering businesses together. But those businesses never traded, they said.
Thandisizwe Diko further confirmed social media posts showing him being involved in a number of boards in government entities, but he defended his track record and qualifications.
“I fully reject the assertion that these appointments, which I earned after due process, were the result of unwarranted political influence,” he said.
“However, in the interests of ethical leadership and accountability and following the example set by iNdlovukazi Khusela Diko, I will resign as an independent audit committee member of the Joburg Market as this appointment itself has now become mired in controversy.
“This is to save the market and the city from any further undue public scrutiny.”