The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure is demanding an apology from the Democratic Alliance (DA) for accusing Minister Sihle Zikalala of “lying about the over 200 construction mafia-related arrests”.
In June, Zikalala made the statement that there had been over 200 arrests, countrywide, relating to syndicates of what has been widely termed the “construction mafia”.
Following that, DA Shadow Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Sello Seitlholo stated that if Zikalala refused to acknowledge his “false crime statistics”, the party would refer the case to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interest and request that it investigate the potential violation of the Executive Members Ethics Act and Code of Conduct by the Minister.
Seitlholo had said industry players were “justifiably sceptical” of the figure given by Zikalala, owing to what the DA said was no improvement on the ground and the suspension of some projects.
He added that the South African Police Service (Saps) had failed to provide records on proof of arrests to substantiate the 200 arrests claim.
Meanwhile, Zikalala’s office has accused the DA of being untruthful and spreading misleading propaganda.
“It is yet another act of desperation to defame the government, fuelled by its own delusion and obsession to be purveyors of fake news. Under normal circumstances we would not respond to any Democratic Alliance drivel as our comments will dignify their garbage. We are responding because the media and the public at large have now become victims of being infected with falsehoods and propaganda and we respond to protect the vulnerable members of the public,” said the department.
It further stressed that its information that there were over 200 arrests made by the police was correct and authenticated by official documents in its possession.
It also added that law enforcement agencies were hard at work and were thwarting the efforts of the construction mafia.
The department had also promised to reveal further evidence of this in upcoming briefings.
Responding to Zikalala’s demand for a public apology, Seitlholo said, “we stand by our statement and we will not be apologising”.
He said the Minister first claimed that 200 arrests had been made in relation to construction mafia crimes and later upped the figure to 600 on the JJ Tabane show.
“The onus is on him to prove that this is true, using proof of arrests obtained from Saps. Until he does, the DA stands by its statement that he is misleading the public,” Seitlholo said.
He added that not only did Saps fail to provide records on proof of arrests to substantiate Zikalala’s claim, it also wrote to the DA to ask for an extra 30 days to look for the information.