Our zero this week is embattled Gauteng MEC for local government and housing Humphrey Mmemezi, who seems to be using the same delaying tactics for answering about his “spending sprees” as Gauteng speaker Lindiwe Maseko.

In a rather surprise move following the media splurge about his alleged credit card abuse and car damage, Mmemezi submitted his own report to Gauteng integrity commissioner Dr Ralph Mgijima.

This is the same commissioner who is currently also investigating Maseko for tender irregularities and an exorbitant grocery bill. Read our coverage of the speaker here.

This has effectively excused Mmemezi from having to account up front for his alleged conduct, with the Gauteng legislature and ANC refusing to discuss the allegations against him until Mgijima releases his report – and there’s no telling when that will come out.

Although this may have earned the MEC a brief respite from quizzing in the legislature, it has not quelled speculation.

If Mmemezi used a credit card funded by taxpayers’ money on legitimate expenses, he should tell the public why and how the money was spent – South Africans have the right to know.

Avoiding the prickly issue?

“We have now seen two cases of alleged serious corruption, first by the speaker of the Gauteng legislature and now by an MEC, referred to the integrity commissioner – an office about which little is known,” says Corruption Watch director David Lewis.

Corruption Watch wants to know what kind of powers this commission has, how its personnel are appointed, to whom it reports and what its time frames are. It will publish an article on this shortly.

“It is certainly the case that the integrity commissioner has taken longer than would appear necessary to investigate the alleged corruption by the speaker, and both the speaker and MEC Mmemezi have used the referral as the basis for refusing to answer some apparently straightforward questions. We will carefully monitor both cases,” Lewis adds.

New evidence

Although the Gauteng legislature and ANC have refused to discuss the allegations against Mmemezi until the commissioner releases his report, a new set of allegations were submitted to the commissioner’s office just this week, on Tuesday 12 June.

These relate to deposits made into a credit card account belonging to the Department of Economic Development, among other things.

The integrity commissioner’s report on Mmemezi is unlikely to be released at least for a few more months, as Mgijima is still in the process of completing his report on the speaker, which is expected to be handed over to the Gauteng privileges and ethics committee at the end of June.

Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane requested a report from Mmemezi when the allegations about abuse of his credit card surfaced a few months ago in the media, but her office has not made it clear what will now happen to her report, as Mmemezi has since made a submission to the integrity commissioner.

Her office has yet to reply to questions from Corruption Watch.

Personal deposits into a state expense account

Documents in Corruption Watch’s possession, which were part of the latest set of submissions, indicate the deposits ranged from about R4 000 to R25 000 and listed a HMZ Mmemezi as the reference, or in one case HMZ Mmezi.

These deposits were put into a corporate platinum credit card account belonging to the Department of Economic Development.

The DA, in its submission to the integrity commissioner’s office on Tuesday 12 June, refers to the deposits and also suggests that Mmemezi is guilty of misleading the legislature by avoiding answering questions relating to these and other issues around expenditure on his government-issued credit card and damage to his car on 29 May.

His response was that he had already made a submission to the integrity commissioner Dr Mgijima.

But, there is an indication from discussions in the legislature that Mmemezi’s report was actually submitted two days later, on 31 May.

No comment

Questions had been planned for Mmemezi at the 5 June sitting of the legislature, but Gauteng legislature speaker Maseko took a decision that Mmemezi should not be required to answer for his government credit card spending in the legislature until Mgijima’s investigation is completed.

The ANC has also indicated that it will not take a position on Mmemezi, who also holds the position of Gauteng ANC deputy secretary, until the integrity commissioner and the premier have made a finding.

ANC caucus spokesperson Gugu Ndima told Sapa that they “respect and uphold institutions such as the integrity commissioner and the office of the speaker” and they intend to wait for matters to unfold.

Expenses questioned on Mmemezi’s official credit card include groceries to the value of almost R7 000, R60 000 in clothing allegedly bought in India, and a R10 000 painting bought from McDonalds in Silverton, Pretoria.

Mmemezi responded to allegations around the painting for this first time on Monday 11 June at the launch of an RDP hostel in Tembisa on the East Rand.

He said the painting had been bought by staff to hang up in the offices of the Gauteng Department of Local Government and Housing.

Car crash

Details surrounding an accident involving his official vehicle, on 11 November 2011, are also being questioned.

The BMW X5 was involved in an accident in KwaZulu-Natal and Mmemezi told the legislature that the car suffered minor damage with just the left rear door being dented.

It’s alleged in the documents submitted on 12 June to the integrity commissioner that the car may have been more seriously damaged, based on an internal memo.

Rumours are also circulating that efforts were made to repair the car unofficially, but none of this has been clarified as no questions are being allowed until the integrity report has been completed.

Mmemezi first came under fire after his official vehicle seriously injured Thomas Ferreira, 19, on 5 November 2011, leaving the teenager brain damaged.

At the time there was a lot of public criticism around blue light brigades speeding unnecessarily. Mmemezi was not the driver.

Failing to answer to the public about allegedly using a government credit card to buy over R70 000 worth of clothes, groceries and a painting, among other claims, makes Gauteng MEC Humphrey Mmemezi this week’s zero.

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