South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, on Tuesday welcomed the report of the Public Protector which exonerated him from any unethical conduct related to the launch of the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone (Sbidz) in October 2013.

Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s investigation followed a complaint lodged by Democratic Alliance MP, Geordin-Hill Lewis, alleging that Davies had abused state funds by supplying ANC party-political t-shirts, had paid for the launch with public funds, and turned an official government event into an ANC political party rally.

In her report, Madonsela found that the allegation that Davies distributed t-shirts at the event resulting in violation of the Executive Ethics Code was not substantiated.

She also found that a group of ANC supporters came to the event clad in ANC t-shirts.

ANC supporters brought their own t-shirts
“Based on the evidence, neither Minister Davies nor anyone acting on his instruction, distributed ANC T-shirts at the Sbidz event. The unruly behaviour by a group of ANC supporters clad in ANC T-shirts who booed Premier [Helen] Zille did not turn the event into a political party rally and failure by Minister Davies to take action regarding such behaviour did not expose him to a situation involving the risk of a conflict between his official responsibilities and his political interest and therefore did not result in violation of the Executive Ethics Code.
Based on evidence, the launch of the SBIDZ did not turn into a political party (ANC) rally,” Madonsela stated in her report.

“I am therefore of the view that Minister Davies could not have done anything to prevent the booing under the circumstance. Minister Davies’ failure to take any action could be justified by the fact that the event never turned into a political party rally and therefore no obligation existed for him to have acted. The questions of Minister Davies’ failure to take action to prevent the Sbidz event from being turned into a political party rally therefore falls away.”

Davies allowed to transport ANC supporters
Madonsela also cleared Davies of violation of the Executive Ethics Code regarding the transportation of ANC supporters to the event. She found that the dti provided transport for members of the community, irrespective of their political affiliation.

In a statement on Tuesday, Davies welcomed Mandonsela’s findings, saying: “As a department, we welcome Advocate Madonsela’s report and findings because we have always maintained that the launch of the Sbidz was an official government event in which the DTI worked closed with the Saldanha Bay Municipality, the Presidency, Office of the Premier of the Western Cape and other relevant stakeholders.

“The oversubscription at the event was the result of the interest shown by a large number of members of the community after the event was advertised publicly. They were interested in finding out how the industrial development zone would benefit them as members of the community. In no way did the invitation indicate that only members of a particular political organisation or affiliation were invited,” Davies said. – African News Agency