Former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo clarified how he came to receive a watch from the Office of the Public Protector.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office said two publications were approached by an informer who claimed she had presented Mahumapelo with a wrist watch.
The comments formed part of a response to a report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) that claimed HSBC Bank had flagged a $5,000 transfer from a Hong Kong bank to Mkhwebane’s bank.
The OCCRP claimed the alleged transaction emerged during an investigation into whether China North Rail paid the controversial family kickbacks in relation to Transnet’s R50 billion locomotive deal.
Mkhwebane rejected the report “with contempt”, claiming it was part of a wider “orchestrated campaign and concerted efforts in political circles, civil society and the media to discredit her merely because she had been able to muster enough courage to hold those seen as ‘untouchable’ to account”.
The Office of the Public Protector detailed how it had been asked by the media if Mkhwebane had gifted Mahumapelo the timepiece.
“The publications demanded to know the make of the watch, the value and the reason for the ‘gift’. They said they were in possession of a copy of a gift register in which Mahumapelo had declared it.
“It was subsequently explained to them that the Public Protector presents all visiting dignitaries with Public Protector-branded promotional material, which includes stationery, caps, umbrellas and wall clocks, one of which is the watch that was referred to by the informer who sold the information to the publications in question as proof of impropriety on the part of Mkhwebane,” read the statement.
Reacting to the enquiries, Mahumapelo said he had noted what he called “attempts to intensify my reputational damage”.
In an attempt to dispel any rumours of links between the two, Mahumapelo said claims that Mkhwebane had bought or donated a wrist watch to him were “nothing else but yawning attempts by well-funded and retrogressive forces”.
Mahumapelo, who now chairs the portfolio committee on tourism in parliament, said he had worked closely with Mkhwebane’s predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, adding she had also gifted him a watch during a formal visit.
“In one of the visits I undertook to Madonsela’s office to deal purely with government issues, she offered me a gift of a watch which I accordingly accepted and declared as required by the executive members’ code of ethics.
“For the record, I continued the same principled approach of abiding by the Constitution with the current Public Protector whom I also hold in high regard because of her principled approach to matters of adhering to the Constitution of the Republic.”
The former premier said he had never received, or been offered, any gifts from Mkhwebane herself.
“It is therefore a lie to seek to be populist, defame and question Mkhwebane’s good credentials and capacity to do her work honestly, [fairly], without fear, favour or prejudice by misleading the public that she gave me a gift at some point.”
Madonsela had not responded to News24’s requests for comment by the time of publishing. Her comment will be added to the story once received.
– News24 wires