She said since then she has been the subject of a “smear campaign” that has been more personal than about general accountability.
Social development MEC Thandi Shongwe has claimed that Mpumalanga journalist Tom Nkosi is bitter and has been targeting her since her time as speaker of the provincial legislature – the root cause being a R5 million that she says she refused to pay to Nkosi then.
This is the first time Shongwe answers to a string of allegations that have been levelled against her since at least 2014 when she became the speaker of the legislature – mainly allegations of corruption.
She said troubles between herself and Nkosi’s Ziwaphi newspaper started in 2011 when Nkosi applied for a post at the legislature while Sipho Lubisi was then speaker, only to be not hired.
Shongwe said when she took over from Lubisi after the 2014 general elections, Nkosi allegedly approached her and asked her to consider reversing the Lubisi decision so that he would be employed in that senior position at the provincial legislature.
“Unfortunately 3 years passed and I could not reverse the outcomes of a 2011 decision and he became more aggrieved and he started to campaign against me,” said Shongwe.
Shongwe weathered a lot of storms from critics, including Nkosi’s Ziwaphi newspaper and Collen Sedibe’s EFF while she was a speaker;
1.) She was accused of spending close to R3 million to purchase two Mercedes Benz SUVs within few months after she was elected as speaker. The Ziwaphi newspaper reported that Shongwe bought the first Merc at taxpayers money for R1.2 million, a brand new iridium silver Mercedes Benz ML 500, in 2014, but in 2015 the Merc crashed and forced Shongwe to purchase another one, for R1.5 million this time, a Merc GLE 500 – also iridium silver in colour. Shongwe’s choice of colour was allegedly to conceal the new purchase from the opposition parties who would want to know why she bought another car, Ziwaphi reported in October 2016.
2.) A tenderpreneur in 2017 allegedly refused to be part of an alleged deal in Shongwe’s office that would see a R15 million tender inflated to R20.5 million if the tenderpreneur agreed to partner with a company linked to Shongwe called ‘Frugacode’, Ziwaphi reported. The owner of the company Sarafusion (PTY) LTD that got the tender to provide SAP maintenance and support at the legislature, a Mr B Musaruwa, said his contract was ended abruptly by Shongwe’s office when he refused to partner with Frugacode.
3.) In August 2016 the Ziwaphi newspaper reported on a damning Auditor-General finding against the Mpumalanga legislature under Shongwe’s leadership, issues of the requirements of tender processes not being followed to allow the process of awarding of tenders to be “fair, equitable, transparent and competitive,” reads the AG’s report.
4.) Shongwe’s secretary Linda Mwale being one of the “untouchables” at the Mpumalanga legislature, with nobody taking action against him despite having a pile of allegations hanging over his head.
5.) In October 2018, Ziwaphi reported the EFF in Mpumalanga which had laid a case of corruption against Shongwe, and which had also written to Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane asking her to remove Shongwe was heading to President Cyril Ramaphosa to report Shongwe’s doings.
Thandi Shongwe hits back
She said there was once a time when Nkosi approached the Public Protector, unsuccessfully though, to fight against the decision not to employ him as senior official of the legislature.
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Shongwe said afterwards Nkosi demanded to be paid R5 million for designing the current logo of the Mpumalanga legislature while he was still an employed there and she refused to pay him. She said Nkosi was a staff member and there was no agreement written down that he was now doing business when he designed the logo.
“When we investigated we found that he was not the only employee who contributed in the designing of the logo and there were no agreements written down. I refused to pay and he became worse. Now he is using the SACP to fight his own battles of self, advancement interest after his attempt to use Ziwaphi newspaper [failed],” she alleged.
Shongwe was made the MEC of sports and culture from the position of legislature speaker after Mtshweni-Tsipane was appointed Premier in 2018. She was changed to become the new MEC of social development after the May 2019 general elections. She said Nkosi came to the social development department to make “demands to the department of social development that advertisements be made in his newspaper and after his attempt failed by not following proper procedures he got angry,” claimed Shongwe.
She said it was for “that reason” that Nkosi “is now bitter”.
“The department refused to follow wrong processes. We request the SACP to distance itself from the ambitions of the said comrade. He has nothing good to offer to the Mpumalanga provincial government but criticism because of his anti-Mpumalanga government [stance],” Shongwe said.
The SACP in eHlanzeni has also criticised Shongwe and called on the ANC “to assess” if she was fit to continue as MEC. Communist regional secretary Bhobert Nkosi said Shongwe should be investigated to determine if the social development department was not being used to “market” her controversial pastor Prophet ‘Major 1’ Bushiri who donated food parcels to the province.
Bhobert said it was worrying that the Covid-19 hardships were now being used to promote Bushiri’s Enlightened Christians Gathering church as they were “fed with the propaganda” on social media that Bushiri had donated scores of parcels only to find only 35 parcels were donated by the Gauteng-based Malawian clergyman.
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“We believe that the MEC is using the plight of the Covid-19 pandemic to market Bushiri and her church and we are calling on an investigation into whether the name of the department was not used to get the food parcels to the way of ANC regional leader Ngrai Ngwenya,” said Bhobert.
But Ngwenya said he doesn’t care what Bhobert says. He said first of all Bhobert is not South African and this is the reason he doesn’t care about giving food parcels to people of South Africa and should go to Swaziland and give food parcels there and stop complaining about ANC leaders giving away food parcels.
Tom said that the province has officials who don’t want to account and when you ask the truth they “divert attention by saying you’re attacking them”.
“I’m still waiting for the department of social development to respond to a media enquiry I sent a month ago, they don’t respond to the media enquiry but rather choose to attack me. I find it strange that an ANC appointed MEC is unaware that the ANC is a champion of media freedom,” he said.
(edited by MLM)
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