'So help us God' - Mabuyane vows to probe claims over corruption in Mbizana

Newly sworn-in Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane.
Newly sworn-in Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane.
Image: Michael Pinyana

New Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has vowed to get to the bottom of the corruption scandal involving the Mbizana municipality and the R1.1m paid to Mthatha businessman Lonwabo Bam.

Mabuyane also revealed that he has settled the R450,000 loan from ANC provincial treasurer and member of the provincial legislature Babalo Madikizela for security upgrades at his East London house.

He said he had made arrangements with his bank.

Addressing the media at the Bhisho State House after being sworn in as premier, he said he had approached his bank to assist because he felt that, as a premier, it was not right to owe an MPL money.

“I had made a private arrangement with the treasurer in his private capacity when he was a businessman.

“We had done that and later on he came into government, and all those issues are aboveboard,” he said.

On Saturday, the Weekend Post reported that R1.1m was paid to Bam by the Mbizana local municipality.

The sixth term of the Eastern Cape legislature will kick off today where the new premier will officially be elected. The ANC has put forward ANC EC Chair Oscar Mabuyane as as its candidate for the position

Posted by Nomazima Nkosi on Wednesday, May 22, 2019

In an affidavit, Bam admitted to submitting an invoice to the municipality allegedly at the instruction of Madikizela, and that he had been paid even though no work was done.

Of that money, R450,000 was electronically transferred to the architect responsible for renovations to Mabuyane’s house in Bunkers Hill.

On Wednesday, Mabuyane said the government must investigate.

“The government must be able to investigate that so we [can] get to the bottom of why these allegations are arising.

“I can tell you that at that point we’ll be able to get a different result on exactly what happened to [the] money of Mbizana,” he said.

“The municipality must be able to tell us if there is a situation like that.

“It’s important that the municipality explains.”

Asked to elaborate on how the matter of the loan from Madikizela had been resolved as he was meant to only finish paying him by 2023, Mabuyane said he had turned to his bank.

In the week leading up to Mabuyane’s election, he said there had been negative reports from the media, describing it as a blessing.

“It’s not a bad start. To me it’s more malice than fact.

“Sometimes we have to be sacrificial lambs.

“It’s a blessing for me. Starting from this we will learn.”

In the legislature, wearing a black suit with a green, black and yellow tie to celebrate the ANC’s colours, Mabuyane decided to use the opportunity to address the Mbizana scandal.

“There is no Mbizana money that was stolen.

“It was an agreement between myself and the provincial treasurer who was also a businessman.

“It was our own personal agreement but now that it is in the public domain, we have already settled the matter and now we’re looking forward to marching with speed,” he said.

Fighting corruption was a big theme in his post-election speech.

“All those who’ve been found guilty will answer.

“The establishment of a specialised unit to deal with corruption by the president indicates the seriousness of the ANC to fight corruption.

“We want that unit to extend its footprint in our province so that it can investigate cases of corruption in both local and provincial government.

“I’m looking into the finances and I can assure you that the finances are protected.

“What is being said and written I know is malicious and distorted. The truth will come out,” Mabuyane said.

Earlier, as opposition party leaders congratulated him they urged him to clear his name.

EFF Eastern Cape chair Yazini Tetyana, who had initially objected to Mabuyane’s nomination as premier, said the objection was based on historical arrangements.

“We, in 2014, in the same house elected a premier that was clouded with issues.

“We objected today because we don’t want to repeat the same mistake.

“This is a genuine cause of fighting against corruption.

“We are not saying you are corrupt but we are saying lead the province with integrity.

“We are calling for you to create jobs for the people of [the] Eastern Cape and we demand that you give them jobs,” Tetyana said.

Veliswa Mvenya, who represents the African Transformation Movement (ATM), urged Mabuyane to, among other things, ensure that he was accessible to people.

She also urged him to clear his name. “We ask that you first and foremost sort out the allegations about you.

“Whether you did it or not we would like this to start on a good note.

“If you say you want to stop corruption it must start with you,” Mvenya said.

DA leader in the legislature Nqaba Bhanga said: “There will be those who criticise you along the way. It comes with leadership. You must lift your head up and go on.

“You must understand that your allegiance is with the people of [the] Eastern Cape.

“All the people who put you here today will hold you to account on the oath that you said here today.

“The ancestors who stood in this chamber before you are watching over you.”

UDM leader in the legislature Mncedisi Filtane said his party would be watching Mabuyane’s every move.

“So much has been promised and so much has yet to be delivered,” he said.

“Promises made to the people must be delivered.

“The economy of the Eastern Cape is a laughing stock.

“What we’ll be checking is how soon you’ll be paying small businesses as people’s businesses are shutting down because of not being [paid].” Tackling the Eastern Cape’s massive infrastructure backlog and ensuring that state employees are healthy to work.

These are some of the priorities of new premier Oscar Mabuyane.

He was elected and sworn in at the Eastern Cape legislature on Wednesday.

He outlined some of his priorities at a briefing with the media.

Earlier in the legislature, shortly after he took his oath, Mabuyane said they would hit the ground running.

“One of our priorities is getting the basics right and making sure that people who occupy positions know what is expected of them,” he said.

At the briefing, Mabuyane said they would make it a point that administrators in government were given the space to do their jobs.

“We can’t have a situation where 50% of our workforce is applying for sick leave while we [lose] R700m for people on sick leave,” he said.

“We need to give employees what’s due to them but people need to understand that they are at work to work.”

Mabuyane said the province needed a capable workforce and the government needed to also create a problem-solving environment for business to thrive and SMMEs should be brought on board.

He said they would revitalise industrial parks in the province in partnership with the department of trade and industry.

“Economic development becomes key,” he said.

“It means diversifying the over-reliance on the automotive sector, which is doing very well and which means we have capacity in the province.”

He said they would focus on building metros such as Nelson Mandela Bay to become international tourism destinations as well as fast-tracking catalytic projects such as the Mthombo oil refinery.

“We will heighten support to our municipalities to address service delivery challenges faced by our people.

“We will have zero tolerance for lax attitudes by public representatives and government officials alike.

“I also have a message for people who are not willing to put ordinary people first, the sixth term of government is unfortunately not for them.”

Mabuyane said he would announce the new provincial executive next week, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his cabinet.