Johannesburg – ANC chief whip Stone Sizani has been accused of putting former Eastern Cape Health MEC Nomsa Jajula under immense political pressure to approve the building of two private hospitals.
Former acting Eastern Cape health superintendent-general Dr Nandi Diliza makes the startling claims in papers filed at the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
Current Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana and the department’s superintendent-general Dr Thobile Mbengashe have applied for leave to appeal the SCA’s judgment in May at the Constitutional Court.
In May, the SCA set aside Eastern Cape High Court Judge Mandela Makaula’s December 2011 decision to refer the applications back to the superintendent-general for reconsideration.
Kirkland Investments, which trades as Eye and Laser Institute, applied to build private hospitals in Port Elizabeth and Jeffrey’s Bay between 2006 and 2007. Its application was granted by then acting superintendent-general Diliza.
According to court papers filed at the Constitutional Court, Diliza received an instruction from then MEC Jajula, who the department admits was also under pressure to grant the company’s application.
Diliza simply carried out the instruction but the permanent superintendent-general at the time, Lawrence Boya, had already rejected Kirkland Investments’ application.
However, Boya’s rejection was not communicated to the company. Kirkland Investments says it only found out about this nine months after the decision was taken. The company had already acquired land for the hospitals and was already preparing and submitting building plans when Boya’s decision was finally communicated to it.
In her affidavit filed at the SCA, Diliza said that prior to making the decision in favour of Kirkland Investments, Jajula told a meeting of senior departmental staff that she had been approached by Sizani, at the time ANC provincial chairman, and that she would be going to Port Elizabeth to meet him to discuss Kirkland Investments’ applications for approval and to be shown one of its hospitals.
Jajula has denied instructing Diliza but was only willing to give oral evidence, according to Kirkland Investments.
At another meeting, Jajula informed staff members, including Diliza, that she had met Sizani and saw Kirkland Investments’ clinic, which was small and needed expansion.
According to Diliza, Jajula told health department staff that it would be unfair to refuse Kirkland Investments’ applications and that she was under pressure from the province’s executive council because the department was seen as withholding licences from black-owned companies to establish private hospitals.
After the Port Elizabeth meeting with Sizani, Jajula told Diliza that she was under political pressure to approve Kirkland Investments’ application and instructed her to approve it.
Diliza obliged with the instruction, Gqobana and Mbengashe say in court papers. They say Jajula understood that Sizani had an interest in Kirkland Investments although this is disputed.
Sizani’s declaration in Parliament’s register of members’ interest shows that he is a director or partner in a dozen companies but Kirkland Investments is not one of them. Some of the companies have been liquidated.
According to Gqobana and Mbengashe’s court papers: “The acting superintendent-general (Diliza) received an instruction from the then MEC (herself under political pressure) to grant Kirkland Investments’ applications”.
They say the instruction was unlawful and inappropriate.
Sizani, through ANC Parliamentary caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo, said he was aware of the court case in question.
“However, he wishes to make it clear that the case has nothing to do with him. Therefore there should be no need whatsoever to either get involved in the case or dignify claims made in it with a response,” he said.
In May, acting SCA Judge Clive Plasket accepted Diliza’s version of events, saying “Jajula had not deposed an affidavit and despite the denial of the allegations by Kirkland Investments and competing allegations whether Jajula made certain admissions or denials, no proper dispute of fact is created”.
At the SCA, Diliza said Jajula was under political pressure to grant the applications because the refusal to grant the Kirkland Investments’ applications put her in a bad light in the political arena.
The matter will be heard next month.
Sizani may also face court action after DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard indicated that she was considering legal action against him for an alleged defamatory attack on her character.
The threat of legal action follows Sizani’s claim that Kohler Barnard violated her oath of confidentiality by posting updates on Facebook during the probe by Parliament’s ethics committee against former Communications minister Dina Pule.
The ethics committee dismissed the allegation against Kohler-Barnard.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape health department has received 69 applications for private hospitals.
Among the applicants are former Olympics marathon runner Xolile Yawa and Medical Research Council chairperson Professor Lizo Mazwai.
He has applied to build a 100-bed hospital in Sterkspruit and upgrading of Carecure’s hospital in Queenstown. Mazwai wants to open a 75-bed hospital and two theatres in Lusikisiki.
Spokesman Sizwe Kupelo declined to comment on the case, saying the health department did not talk about issues before the courts.
Diliza, who has since left the Eastern Cape health department, did not respond to requests for comment.