Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula have dismissed as “fake news” claims reported by Pretoria News that they fell out over tenders worth R17 billion at South Africa’s roads agency SANRAL.
The publication published the claims online on Thursday (26 May), citing anonymous sources but without providing evidence.
The sources reportedly claimed SANRAL cancelled five road infrastructure projects worth R17 billion “at the behest of Mbalula” and that this “did not sit well with Gordhan and Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana,” leading to a “fallout.” They also reportedly claimed Gordhan had “interfered” in the tender processes “for the benefit” of a private company.
‘Falsehoods and fake news’
However, Mbalula and Gordhan have dismissed “the falsehoods and fake news peddled by the owners, editors and ‘journalists’ of the Independent Newspapers group, who are determined to advance anti-democratic political objectives in and outside of Government by regularly misleading the public with disinformation.”
“Minister Gordhan has no business or personal interest in, or with any company that does business with SANRAL. He has no authority at all over SANRAL or its procurement processes – the entity reports to Minister Mbalula,” a joint statement by their respective Departments said.
“This joint statement demonstrates clearly that there is mutual respect and collegiality between the two Ministers as cabinet colleagues. Both serve in Cabinet at the pleasure of the President, and both are unequivocally committed to carrying out their mandated duties, with professionalism and in the interest of the country.
“Both Ministers are seeking legal advice on how to protect their rights and how to take action against a persistent, malicious, disinformation campaign conducted by Independent Media.”
Earlier this week, SANRAL’s board confirmed in a statement that it had cancelled the tenders because of irregularities. However, it denied claims of influence from outside parties.
“We may, under no circumstances, involve the President, our Minister, National Treasury and indeed any other individual or structure outside properly appointed independent advisers who have no interest in the bids in making those determinations,” it said.
“It is for that reason that our Minister heard for the first time about our decision on those tenders at a meeting of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission, which structure itself only got to hear about our decision when it requested an update on the status of economic recovery projects.”
The five projects are reportedly part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s infrastructure plans as outlined in the Economic Reconstruction and recovery Plan.
They include the N2 Wild Coast Mtentu bridge, R56 Matatiele rehabilitation, Ashburton interchange, EB Cloete interchange improvements and GFIP open road tolling.