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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Government wives cash in

Yolandi Groenewald | Johannesburg
28 May 2004 09:15

Public service watchdogs have voiced concerns about Maud Dikgetsi, a woman entrepreneur who built her communications business on Northern Cape government contracts while married to one of the province's ministers. The case raises further concerns about the growth of "crony capitalism" in South Africa.

It has also emerged that Dikgetsi's contracts came through the department of another provincial minister who is now her private business partner. A growing number of spouses of senior politicians, at national and provincial government level, are being awarded government contracts. They include Nambita Stofile, wife of former Eastern Cape premier Makhenkesi and now national sports minister.

Dikgetsi and the Northern Cape's former minister for local government and housing, Pakes Dikgetsi, were divorced last year. But they were still married, and he was still in office, when her fledgling Moribo Public Relations landed significant state business in 2001 and 2002.

Most of her contracts came through the Northern Cape's department of economic affairs and tourism while Thabo Makweya was the responsible minister. After resigning his government post in the middle of last year, Makweya entered the private sector and has set up several businesses with Dikgetsi.

A former senior Telkom manager of community relations, Dikgetsi started Moribo at the end of 1999, shortly after her former husband's provincial Cabinet appointment. The company specialises in public relations, event management and seminars and workshops in the areas of strategic planning, team building and networking.

In 2001 Moribo won a provincial contract to coordinate the initial Northern Cape Trade Expo, also managing the event the following year.

The department of trade and industry's publication Real People reported that Moribo had also hosted other events of a similar scale in the Northern Cape for government departments and organisations. They included a Youth Economic Summit sponsored by the youth commission.

It reports her saying that "we were responsible for the entire event from coordination to the final staging of it".

Dikgetsi conceptualised and hosted the Northern Cape Women in Business seminar in April last year, again sponsored by the provincial department of economic affairs and tourism.

The Mail & Guardian has confirmed with the Northern Cape government that the trade expo contract was worth R125 000 and the women's business seminar contract R30 000. The provincial procurement office was unable to provide a value for the youth summit contract.

Dikgetsi and Makweya bought into KBH Resources when he quit his government job. They also started new businesses Kapa Bokone Agro and Kapa Bokone Logistics.

In terms of the Ministerial Handbook, the award of a contract to a spouse is only considered a conflict of interests when the husband or wife is in charge of the relevant department. The handbook states that the immediate dependent members of ministers' families "may not serve … in companies directly connected with the minister's official duties".

Tender regulations stipulate that spouses engaging in government business should declare their relationship to a state official before the tender is submitted

However, Colm Allan, director of the Public Service Accountability Monitor at Rhodes University this week described the Dikgetsi contracts as "highly problematic".

"It is a problem not only for the spouse of an executive member of the government to do business with the spouse's own department, but with other departments in the government as well," he remarked.

"Members of the executive have a relationship with each other and have the power to influence the allocation of public resources," he said. "The spouses are connected to the executive through their relationships. There is a conflict of interests."

Hennie van Vuuren, a senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies said the award of state contracts to spouses would "reflect badly" on the department concerned, and inevitably raise questions about the conduct of the relevant officials.

"There should be a rule that the immediate family - spouses or siblings - of government members be excluded from contracts with government departments," Van Vuuren insisted.

Dikgetsi is not the only politician's wife who has benefited from government business. In 2001 the M&G revealed that a number of influential politicians' spouses were also listed as shareholders in the South African Oil Company (SAOC), set up to handle a controversial Nigerian oil sale to South Africa in 1999 and backed by the South African government.

Nomusa Mufamadi, wife of Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, was executive director of the SAOC and a 5% shareholder, while a Limpopo-based 5% shareholder, Leswika Women Investments, included Mathuding Ramatlhodi, wife of former Limpopo premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi.

In addition, Nambita Stofile, wife of Makhenkesi Stofile, had in interest in two companies that won Eastern Cape government contracts. Allan said Nambita Stofile was clearly embroiled in a conflict of interests when companies in which she was a director and shareholder landed two Eastern Cape government contracts in 2001.

She was also a one-third shareholder and director of a security company, which already had several government contracts under its belt.

In an interview with the Daily Dispatch at the time, Stofile said her company would continue to bid for government work because she saw no conflict of interest.

"If there was a bias in my favour we would win all the contracts and that has not happened," she said. "To say I'm the premier's wife will not prejudice negatively or positively. I am the premier's wife, not the premier. I don't work for [the] government. I am an individual."

Allan said his organisation had consistently argued that it was not appropriate for a premier's spouse to tender for contracts with provincial government departments falling under his or her authority.

"The premier and his Cabinet appoint the members of the Provincial Tender Board, who then have to deliberate on whether to renew existing contracts, or award new ones, to a company in which the premier's wife is a director and shareholder."

Ex-premier Makhenkesi Stofile also defended his wife's right to engage in business with government departments falling under his authority, denying any conflict of interests

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.