SAPS must investigate dodgy contracts between Letlaka Media and Ace Magashule

Patricia Kopane MP

DA Leader in the Free State

It is the view of Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, that the contracts between Letlaka Media and the Office of the Premier must be investigated by the SAPS. This was revealed in reply to a written question by my colleague in the NCOP, Mr Darryl Worth.

According to an investigation commissioned by National Treasury into the contracts between Letlaka Media and the Office of the Premier, JGL Forensic Services revealed various transgressions and deviations from the legislative framework.

The treasury report recommended disciplinary action against implicated individuals. It also recommended that the Office of the Premier should lay criminal charges against implicated individuals. To our knowledge, no such action has been taken and Premier Ace Magashule has refused to answer DA questions in the legislature on the matter. What we do know is that MEC for Finance, Ms Elzabe Rockman, was the then director-general and the accounting officer for the Office of the Premier, as per the report she was also implicated in the dodgy contracts. Instead of any action taken against Ms Elzabe Rockman, she was promoted to MEC for Finance.

The report reveals that Premier Ace Magashule attempted to centralise control over the provincial government’s advertising and printing needs within his office, effectively making him the implementing agent of all provincial departments. This in contravention of Regulation 16A6.5 and 16A6.6 governing transversal contracts. All Free State provincial departments who acceded to the appointment of the Office of the Premier as the implementing agent also effectively transgressed their own Supply Chain Management policies.

The report recommends that the contracts between the Office of the Premier and Letlaka Media be cancelled, as well as the cancellation of the appointment of the Office of the Premier as the implementing agent. No proper procurement processes were followed.

It is our view that Premier Ace Magashule, through these illegitimate contracts, consolidated his grip on government expenditure for advertising and printing in order to ‘buy’ out the free media within the province. Both publications by Letlaka Media, ‘The Weekly’ and ‘The Free State Times’ effectively serve as propaganda tools for Premier Ace Magashule. Despite ascribing to the Press Code of South Africa, both publications regularly flout its prescriptions.

In recent weeks ‘The Weekly’ has published a series of inaccurate and defamatory articles on the DA and its provincial leadership. ‘The Weekly’ failed to ask for comment and refused to publish our right of reply, all in contravention of the South African Press Code. Engaging with journalists at ‘The Free State Times’ to raise our concerns on plagiarism, we were told that there is no law against plagiarism and that there is nothing wrong with it.

It is shocking that Premier Ace Magashule through taxpayer funds basically created a Zimbabwe-style state-run media conglomerate in the Free State. What is more shocking is that the editors at Letlaka Media compromised their ethics of transparent and balanced journalism to the whims of the owner of Letlaka Media, Tumi Ntsele, and his close political ally, Ace Magashule.

The DA remains committed to the independence of the media. We will do everything we can in order to pursue the recommendations in the treasury report and see to it that justice is done.

Premier Ace Magashule must take note that taxpayer money is supposed to be used to provide services to our people and not for ANC propaganda purposes.