Following last week’s arrest of Zimbabwean nationals during a raid at Millionaire’s Polokwane, a club within the confines of the city’s international airport, the leadership of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the province intends instituting criminal charges and a Public Protector case against the establishment owner and the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gateway Airports Authority Limited (Gaal).
Last week Polokwane Observer published a front page story about the alleged occupation of a space at the international airport, a national key point, without an existing lease agreement or contract with the Department of Transport, which is the owner of the building.
The owner is being accused of owing the state R1,9 million in rent accumulating since December 2011 when the establishment started operating there. In the report Polokwane Observer further quoted sources confirming that EFF Provincial Secretary Jossey Buthane was being investigated for his suspected involvement in the business affairs of the proprietor.
Outraged by the report that was published without his comment after several failed attempts to get in touch with Buthane last week, he demanded an opportunity to share his view on, among others, allegations of him being responsible for arranging occupation of the facility while still serving as Chief of Staff in the office of the then MEC for Transport. Due to the severity of the matter and the allegations included in the story, Polokwane Observer opted not to identify Buthane and withheld his name as well as that of the owner of the business in the initial story.
Responding to the allegations, he said the EFF distanced itself from any relation with the owner of Millionaire’s Polokwane. He continued saying they didn’t have any relationship with her and they had learnt that she was using a public facility for free and making money out of it. Buthane further called on all the relevant authorities to bring her to book, for her to pay back all the money owed in rent for the space occupied for purposes of business use and proceeds to assist the poor people of Limpopo. Those who had allowed her a chance to use the facility without paying rent should be charged, he stressed. Afterwards he added that they also demanded the former CEO of Gaal to pay back the accumulated rental amount. “It is corruption at the highest level and we are not going to sit back and allow such a thing to happen.”
Until the time of the interview the EFF had not received any information that they were being investigated and would then request those investigating them to come open, mention those they were investigating and charge them so they could have the opportunity to give their side of the story freely as expected from any South African by the Constitution and rules of natural justice, Buthane remarked. “Everybody is innocent until proven guilty and both sides of the story must be heard,” he continued.
They never had anything to do with the facilitation of the use of the airport facility, Buthane reiterated. Ironically, he said, it had been alleged that the occupation of the facility was processed by an official in the Department of Roads and Transport, but contrary to what was being alleged none of their officials were in the employ of the department at the time of the scrupulous corrupt awarding of the facility to be used. “The only person we know that worked in the office of the MEC was Jossey Buthane, the current Provincial Secretary of the EFF and at the time Millionaire’s was established at the airport, the Provincial Secretary of the EFF was no longer working with the Department of Roads and Transport and even when he was working there he was very far from awarding any premises to be used. He was purely dealing with the management of the MEC’s office, very far from awarding any tender, very far from allocating any space anywhere. So it cannot be true.” To a question he confirmed that he left the employ of the Department of Roads and Transport in March 2012 and that Millionaire’s Polokwane was already established at the airport at the time. He refuted allegations that they were using the opening of an earlier criminal case against the MEC Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana as a ploy to disrupt an initial investigation into departmental matters and said they were law-abiding citizens and a law-abiding organisation against anything of that nature. “They must not use us a scapegoat for their corrupt activities.” The MEC had to go face the music and the dirty tricks they played would not assist them, he reckoned and added that they shouldn’t drag the name of the EFF through the mud. “We are very far from those things.”
Buthane further stated they were calling on the relevant authorities to conduct an investigation, starting with the ex-CEO of Gaal for allowing a person to use the facility without paying rent. “The same Ipfi Maumela must be arrested. There must be a criminal charge against her.” He indicated the EFF was considering instituting cases against the former CEO and the businesswoman by next week.
In conclusion he emphasised the EFF had never arranged any party for hosting at Millionaire’s Polokwane, which was in his view instead used by African National Congress (ANC) supporters. “It’s a hosting place for the ANC; not for the EFF.”
On Tuesday Buthane said the EFF in Limpopo had not yet instituted intended criminal charges and a Public Protector case against the former CEO of Gaal and the businesswoman by then, but planned to do so early next week.
Story: YOLANDE NEL