Givers saddened by Ndebele row

Mhlaba Memela

The emerging Vukuzakhe contractors, who had banded together to buy a luxury S500 Mercedes- Benz and two head of cattle for Transport Minister S'bu Ndebele, yesterday expressed sadness over his being asked to return the gifts.

Ndebele yesterday announced that he would return the gifts after discussions with his family.

There was also a widespread outcry from opposition parties and pressure on him to return the gifts presented to him on Saturday.

Phatheni Zondi, one of the contractors instrumental in organising the weekend's farewell party for Ndebele, broke down and wept yesterday.

"We wanted to say thank you to him. We did not want to damage his reputation. It was an honest gift."

She said more than 40 contractors had contributed to the gifts.

Zondi said the event to thank Ndebele was organised two months before the elections but was postponed because politicians had busy schedules.

She said they decided to buy Ndebele the gift well ahead of his appointment.

"We were under the impression that he was retiring. We are very sorry for the pain that we have caused him."

She said "as black people giving someone a gift is a usual thing to do for someone who helped uplift your life".

Most of the contractors were offered an opportunity through Ndebele's vision as transport MEC, she said.

"When we started we had nothing. We we were widows, unemployed people and ordinary cleaners. We were given an opportunity by Ndebele when he began building roads and bridges in the province and put in programmes to help the poor."