MEC promises to get tough over graft

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Newly appointed MEC for agriculture and environmental affairs Mtholephi Mthimkhulu has promised to root out corruption in his department.

Mthimkhulu takes over the reins from former MEC and ANC colleague, Gabriel Ndabandaba, who was sacked last week. The department has in recent weeks come under severe criticism. It has been accused of mismanagement and misusing public funds totalling more than R100million. The allegations arose after it emerged that top government officials and their wives had benefited from some of the department's projects.

The reports said that Premier Sbu Ndebele's wife, Zama, and head of Treasury Sipho Shabalala's wife, Ntombi, were among the beneficiaries of "grants- in-aid" projects intended for the community. After the allegations surfaced the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in the province ordered that Jabulani Mjwara, head of the agriculture and environmental affairs department, be investigated because he had failed to answer a number of queries about a wide range of issues.

During a media briefing in Pietermaritzburg, Mthimkhulu said that if the reports and allegations were true, action would be taken.

"I am very disturbed by such reports and I can assure the public that if there's any sign of corruption I will deal with it harshly. I will leave no stone unturned in tackling any sort of corruption," warned Mthimkhulu.

Mjwara said yesterday that reports of mismanagement were false.

He said overspending of about R96million was because of the increased number of people needing help.

"We did not misuse the public money, but we have reached more people than ever before."