MEC cleared over lav­ish cake

The Sunday Independent - - FRONT PAGE - TSHEGO LEPULE [email protected]

BONGINKOSI Madik­izela gets to have his cake and eat it, too.

He found out this week that Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane ruled in the Western Cape MEC for Hu­man Set­tle­ments’ favour fol­low­ing a row over a R3 000 cake he re­ceived at a swanky sur­prise birth­day party which was held at the One and Only ho­tel last year.

Madik­izela was ac­cused by ANC leader Khaya Ma­gaxa of breach­ing the Ex­ec­u­tive Ethics Code when he failed to de­clare gifts when it emerged that his birth­day cake was paid for by Phumla Zantsi, of Jawula Trad­ing and Con­struc­tion, who had done work for his de­part­ment.

Madik­izela’s run-up to his elec­tion as DA leader last year was marred by the con­tro­versy, which es­ca­lated when the mat­ter was brought to the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture’s con­duct com­mit­tee, which at the time was chaired by for­mer DA MPL Len­nit Max, who was also in the run­ning for the top job.

As a re­sult, Max was sub­se­quently re­moved from the com­mit­tee, which is yet to re­lease its own find­ings on the mat­ter.

In the re­port, Mkhwe­bane said they sought to in­ves­ti­gate whether Madik­izela re­ceived any ben­e­fit or gift for his party, whether he failed to dis­close a ben­e­fit in terms of the Ex­ec­u­tive Ethics Code, and whether he acted in breach of the code.

The bill for the sur­prise birth­day party, with 130 guests, came to a hefty R134 028. In her rul­ing, Mkhwe­bane found that even though the ethics code called for gifts of more than R1 000 to be listed and re­quired per­mis­sion from the premier,

a pri­vate birth­day party was not an item for which a mem­ber can first ask per­mis­sion. She added that any pay­ments made dur­ing or af­ter the event can­not be re­garded as a gift or ben­e­fit, as he was not the only ben­e­fi­ciary.

“The host­ing of the birth­day party was en­joyed by 130 peo­ple and was clearly not for the ben­e­fit of MEC Madik­izela only,” she said.

“The com­plaint lodged by Ma­gaxa against MEC Madik­izela that he failed to de­clare ben­e­fits or spon­sor­ships that he re­ceived dur­ing a birth­day party and there­fore breached the ex­ec­u­tive ethics code is not sub­stan­ti­ated.”

Madik­izela said he feels vin­di­cated by Mkhwe­bane’s find­ing which proves that the ac­cu­sa­tions against him were po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

“The pub­lic pro­tec­tor has found what I al­ways said – that that was noth­ing but a witch-hunt by peo­ple who were des­per­ate to tar­nish my name,” he said.

“It is a re­lief that fi­nally, the pub­lic pro­tec­tor has made a find­ing which is very clear for ev­ery­one to see, that there was no wrong­do­ing on my part.

“For­tu­nately, the mem­bers of my party saw through that re­port and de­cided to defy those who wanted to tar­nish my name so that I don’t get elected. So, even though peo­ple tried to use that re­port against me, I emerged vic­to­ri­ous at that con­fer­ence, and I am grate­ful for that.

“I never had any anx­i­ety (about any fu­ture birth­day par­ties). I have al­ways known that I have a right, like ev­ery­one else, to cel­e­brate a birth­day and cel­e­brate it wher­ever I want to, be­cause I can af­ford to do it any­where.”

Ma­gaxa said the mat­ter should be dealt with by the con­duct com­mit­tee, which should in­ves­ti­gate why the fact that the party cost R134 000 was not de­clared.

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