Public protector finds Block not guilty

An investigation by public protector Thuli Madonsela into of allegations of wrongdoing relating to the sale of a piece of land by the Sol Plaatje municipality cleared Northern Cape finance minister John Block and Northern Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins.

Block and Jenkins were alleged to have influenced the deal to benefit a company called Fastpulse Trading, allegedly linked to Block.

In two reports titled, "False alarm", relating to the allegations against Jenkins and "Disturbing rumours", relating to the allegations against Block, Madonsela stated that no evidence could be found that either official had breached the executive ethics code in their involvement in the deal.

Madonsela was asked to investigfate the deal by Cope's leader in the Northern Cape, Fred Wyngaard, after a Noseweek report in 2010.

The report featured allegations of a meeting between Jenkins, Block, Northern Cape ANC provincial secretary Zamani Saul, and municipal officials, where the sale of the land was allegedly discussed.

The land in question was sold to a property developer,Tremaine Crawford, in 2008 but the deal fell through when he did not pay the purchase price. The land was subsequently sold to Fastpulse.

Crawford then obtained an interdict prohibiting the Sol Plaatje municipality from continuing with the transfer of property to Fastpulse. The dispute was later resolved and Crawford was offered an opportunity to buy the land at the same price, in May 2010.

No evidence
At a press briefing in Pretoria on Monday, Madonsela said her office could find no evidence to support the allegation that Block and Jenkins had abused their office to sway the deal in Fastpulse’s favour.

There was also no evidence to support allegations that Block was linked to Fastpulse, she said.

Madonsela further refuted evidence given by a former property consultant, Mandy Bakker, that Block and Jenkins were directly involved in the deal. Bakker represented another potential buyer, who would have purchased the land from Crawford.

"Under the circumstances, Ms Bakker’s evidence does not constitute substance and support for the allegations that Block was involved in the land transaction between Fastpulse and the municipality," Madonsela said.

* this article was first published by the Mail & Guardian Online on November 27 2012.

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email amabhungane@mg.co.za

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.