ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe has been directly implicated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in the Gauteng government’s “irregular” R27m waste-picking contract.
The Sunday Times has seen a report the SIU sent to Gauteng premier David Makhura almost two years ago, which found that Mabe was a director of a company, Enviro Mobi, that received a questionable contract to supply 200 three-wheeler motorbikes, known as Karikis, to 58 waste-pickers in Ekurhuleni.
At the time, the Gauteng department of agriculture & rural development (GDARD) awarded the contract, Mabe was an MP and prohibited from doing business with the state under parliament’s code of conduct.
The 2019 report emerges after the SIU was granted a proclamation earlier this year by President Cyril Ramaphosa enabling it to more thoroughly investigate the contract.
An SIU official told the Sunday Times the investigation was “at an advanced stage”.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told the Sunday Times the SIU had asked for a proclamation because the irregularities their investigators uncovered required their full powers to probe.
Such a move would also enable them to approach the Special Tribunal to recover the money.
Approached for comment, Mabe said the report was old news. “Maybe you comrades are looking for some relevance since there are few real stories this week,” he said. “[I’m] not sure what is new there other than just trying to embarrass some of us and smear our names further.”
He questioned the timing of the Sunday Times’s reporting, claiming it was politically motivated. “I have never been asked to appear before the SIU,” he said, adding that he has not been given any opportunity to respond to the allegations in the report.
A number of Mabe’s allies insisted this week that the investigation was politically motivated and has been resurrected to weaken Mabe’s friends. The ANC in Gauteng is due for its provincial elective conference next year, when Mabe’s friends and political allies, MEC Lebogang Maile and Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, are expected to stand for the top two provincial positions.
At the time Enviro Mobi got the contract, both were in influential positions, with Maile being the MEC of economic development and agriculture.
Mabe could face having his opponents invoke the ANC’s step-aside rule
Maile is believed to be eyeing the position of provincial chair, which Makhura now holds, and Masina that of his deputy, now held by education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
The details in the SIU report, and the criminal charges subsequently laid, could prove problematic for the two as questions are likely to be raised about their eligibility to stand for election.
The Gauteng provincial government told the Sunday Times that a criminal case was opened at the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Unit in December last year, and that a number of officials are facing disciplinary action for their roles in the scandal.
The Gauteng government’s acting director-general, Thabo Masebe, said: “Charges are being finalised and a presiding officer has been appointed to hear the matter . In terms of recovery of money paid irregularly, the SIU has since obtained a proclamation from the president in terms of which all necessary steps will be taken to recover money lost to the state.”
Hawks spokesperson Katlego Mogale failed to respond to questions sent on Friday.
If he is charged for his role in the scandal, Mabe could face having his opponents invoke the ANC’s step-aside rule, according to which office-bearers facing criminal charges should vacate their positions until their cases are resolved.
The report handed to Makhura was part of an agreement between the province and the SIU to investigate the Enviro Mobi deal, including allegations of irregular expenditure in the appointment of the company, payments to the company before it did any work, and under-delivery on the contract.
The report recommends that the Gauteng government institute civil action against Enviro Mobi to recover the R27m.
“Enviro made a direct misrepresentation to GDARD during the submission of their tender proposal in which they failed to declare the details of all its directors, which included Pule Mabe who was still [an MP] at that stage. The appointment of Enviro was therefore irregular,” the SIU found.
Enviro Mobi was paid R16.5m of the R27m just 10 days after signing the contract in March 2017. It was paid the rest of the R27m for the three-year contract in just 11 months. Of the 200 motorcycles contracted for, it failed to deliver 48.
The report recommends that criminal charges be laid against the company for deliberately concealing the directorship of Mabe, whose name “does not appear as an active director on the disclosure certificate”.
“It is the view of the [SIU] that this was deliberate as to avoid having to declare that Pule Mabe was in fact a director of the company.”
The report says Mabe himself declared his directorship of Enviro Mobi to parliament in 2016. However, he previously claimed that he had resigned from the company in 2014.