On 24 June 2021, as the third wave of the Covid pandemic was about to hit South Africa, Tembisa Hospital spent almost R500 000 on skinny jeans.
A News24 report has uncovered that R498 000 was spent on 200 pairs of skinny jeans. This amounts to R2 500 being spent on each pair.
Jeans purchase questioned by Babita Deokaran
The purchase of the jeans – for girls aged 6 to 7 – was one of the transactions questioned by whistleblower Babita Deokaran.
A year ago, Deokaran was shot and killed outside her home in Mondeor, Johannesburg. She had flagged several cases of possible corruption within the Gauteng Health Department.
The contract for the 200 pairs of jeans was given to the company Inez Chaste. It was run by former professional soccer player Themba Shabalala and his wife Evelyn.
Inez Chaste was awarded the contract despite only being formed a month earlier. It was also one of 10 shell companies owned by either Themba or Evelyn. These 10 companies formed a network of around 45 shell corporations that received more than R110 million in contracts from the hospital in just two months.
The news report states that Shabalala’s companies secured contracts with Tembisa Hospital worth almost R5 million.
All the contracts were valued at between R400 000 and R499 000.
Controversial CEO Ashley Mthunzi
The reason for this seems to be because the hospital’s controversial CEO Ashley Mthunzi could sign off any amount that is less than R500 000. The contracts then don’t have to go out to tender.
In four months during this period, 1 203 purchase orders between R400 000 and R499 000 were processed by the hospital.
Tembisa Hospital made a string of suspicious purchases while under the helm of Mthunzi. These include buying 2 000 hand towels for about R230 each and 100 leather armchairs for R500 000.
On Tuesday, Special Investigation Unit (SIU) head Andy Mothibi said they will be investigating the allegations of corruption at Tembisa Hospital.
“[Regarding] the allegations about the Tembisa Hospital, they are under our consideration now, and we will be kicking off an investigation soon on those allegations,” Mothibi said.
Questions were sent to the Gauteng Health Department asking how Inez Chaste secured the contracts at Tembisa Hospital and why the hospital was spending almost R500 000 on jeans.
“The Gauteng Provincial Government is currently finalising the process of appointing an independent forensic investigator to investigate the allegations that have surfaced relating to the case,” said the department’s head of communication Motalatale Modiba.
Modiba also said that “internal steps are currently being undertaken within the Gauteng Department of Health to ensure that due processes are being followed to address the issues that have been flagged”.
When asked to provide more details, such as why the hospital was buying jeans, Modiba said: “At this stage, we are unable to share more details”.
‘Clear out all the rot’
The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) shadow health MEC, Jack Bloom, was scathing about the apparent lack of action being taken against the hospital and its CEO Mthunzi.
“Despite the mounting evidence against [Mthunzi]… he has still not been suspended and details of a promised investigation have not been provided by the Premier’s office,” said Bloom.
Bloom also decried the wasteful expenditure at the hospital.
“The Tembisa Hospital is notorious for overcrowding and poor service but splurged on luxury armchairs and skinny jeans in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“We need to know why this scandal was covered up after Babita was murdered, and decisive action is needed to clear out all the rot in the Gauteng Health Department.”