‘Millions skimmed’ during Mandela funeral

The Son

Nelson Mandela was supposed to have the final send-off as South Africa’s best-loved son. But for some, the funeral of Nelson Mandela represented just another opportunity to skim public funds. In a damning 300-page report, South Africa’s corruption watchdog (The Public Protector) has laid bare the details. The provincial and municipal officials went on a spending spree with money. Money, initially allocated for development in Eastern Cape which is one of South Africa’s poorest provinces. The protector report links top East Cape officials to misuse of millions. Mandela’s death opened the floodgates in the province for the aforesaid officials to spend R330-million diverted from the infrastructure development grant.

Misuse

Allegations of misuse first emerged in 2014, months after Mr Mandela’s funeral. The office of the public protector, headed by Thuli Madonsela began an investigation into the matter. Madonsela was at the time investigating the alleged irregular spending of a collective R65-million. Madonsela was succeeded by Busisiwe Mkwebane who continued with the instigation. It was led into the report that was released on 4 December 2017.

The Report

The report suggests that the “unauthorised, irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure” incurred around the funeral. The following three were the main causes:

  • the lack of planning. This meant that funds intended for other purposes in the Eastern Cape had to be hurriedly diverted. 
  • the behaviour of unscrupulous service providers, who billed exorbitant amounts for products which may never even have been delivered.
  • the corruption stemming from within government itself. Ranging from inappropriate relationships with certain service providers to the misuse of public funds for ANC activities.

In the report, Mkhwebane pointed a finger at senior Eastern Cape officials. This included director-general Marion Mbina-Mthembu, for the misuse of millions of rands earmarked for statesman Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Nelson Mandela, was a global icon who fought and defeated apartheid. He championed for unity and equality among races in South Africa. He had a heart for his people. He stood for the improvement and upliftment of the previously disadvantaged people in South Africa. This he did by enacting policies that saw service delivery in the poor and marginalised communities. It is then a dark irony that Mandela’s passing saw “money intended to alleviate the plight of the poorest of the poor” spent on a state funeral. The money diverted by the Eastern Cape government was intended for essential work on schools in the province.

Public protector Mkhwebane has recommended that President Jacob Zuma task the special investigations unit (SIU). The unit would probe the unlawful, irregular, intentional or negligent expenditure of R300-million. Funds for memorial services following former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Mkhwebane also wants Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo to conduct an investigation into the financial misconduct of Mbina-Mthembu. 

Gupta brothers

Will justice be served and those responsible for the misuse of public funds brought to justice. The controversial ANC president, Jacob Zuma, who is South Africa’s president has over 780 charges of corruption that were dropped by the country’s National Prosecuting Authority. However, a court ruling overturned that decision and ordered the NPA to reinstitute those charges. Zuma was ruled to have illegally benefitted from the upgrades done onto his private home by public funds, he was forced swallow his pride and pay back the money after a long standoff with the public and opposition parties. Furthermore, a massive email leak fingered Jacob Zuma and his family to be involved in a corruption and money laundering network run by the Gupta brothers. 

Given such alleged rot from the president, his family and the elites close to him, one is left wondering if anyone will be brought to book for the alleged misappropriation of the Mandela funeral millions. 

By Laswet Savadye