MEC cleared over lavish cake
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.