Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has responded to media reports that she had misappropriated campaign funds during President Cyril Ramaphosa's "CR17" presidential campaign.
This follows reports by Sunday Independent that Ntshavheni allegedly used a portion of the more than R5m she received from the CR17 campaign funds to buy a luxury vehicle and build a mansion in Thohoyandou for her mother.
In a statement issued on Monday night, Ntshavheni said these reports are "based on malice and devoid of the truth".
Ntshavheni said she had publicly declared that she was part of a contingent of ANC leaders and members "who not only supported the campaign for then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to take over the ultimate leadership of the ANC, but actively organised for [the] same in Limpopo".
She said she declared that she was part of the early organisers before the campaign became popularly known as CR17.
"Like any campaign that organised meetings, hosted events including rallies to lobby for support for their preferred candidate, the campaign had to be funded. In Limpopo, most of the funding of the campaign was from donations by comrades and businesses who believed and supported the candidature of ... Ramaphosa," Ntshavheni said.
"In the many occasions where the donations were not sufficient to cover particular costs, the national campaign plugged the gap."
Money used for airtime, food
These costs included airtime, petrol and at times food, which Ntshavheni said were disbursed through regional, subregional and cluster coordinators.
"These coordinators are the very comrades who are today accused of having pocketed the campaign funds for personal benefit, which is a blatant lie. Those who were in the ANC branches across Limpopo at the time, confirmed receipt of the assistance from the coordinators. It must also be clarified that not a single coordinator was appointed by an individual but a collective of comrades from the various regions who were the early supporters of the CR17 campaign."
According to the statement, the accusations that Ntshavheni used the campaign funds for personal benefit were "laughable at best and shows the lazy journalism that has become a norm with the mainstream media".
"This projects the media that lacks the basics of fact-checking, but it's reporting is mere rumour-mongering."
Ntshavheni said a mere deed search against the her and her mother's names would "not have only shown all properties owned by them but the years they were acquired".
"If the deed search was too sophisticated a search tool for the media, a mere random enquiry with the neighbours would have also shed light on the property. The so-called mansion in Thohoyandou has been a family home since 2010 and there has not been any new development on the 'mansion' since then, except for a lick of paint."
The minister said a similar search of vehicle ownership would have shown all vehicles owned by the minister and her mother had been paid off by 2016.
Ntshavheni also denied that she had bought a fleet of 15 taxis as this purchase would exceed the R5m she allegedly received from the CR17 campaign.
No sexual relationship
Sunday Independent alluded to a sexual relationship between Ntshavheni and Risimati Hlongwane, a CR17 regional coordinator in Vhembe. Ntshavheni and Hlongwane have both denied this.
"Allegations of sexual relations between ... Ntshavheni and ... Hlongwane are not only spurious and demeaning to the minister, but also a reflection of the level gutter journalism is influenced by patriarch, sexism, ageism, and tribalism.
"What is more demeaning is the fact that 63 years after the historic women's march, patriarchy refuses to acknowledge the role of women leaders in their own right, devoid of sexual favours to men.
"As a matter of fact, Ntshavheni was chosen from a pool of ANC members of Parliament when she was appointed. The process of her nomination to become a member of Parliament was not coordinated through the CR17 campaign coordinators, who seized to act as such [after] the 54th National Conference of the ANC.
"Records of party lists for Parliament with the IEC will show that Ntshavheni was among the few young people who made the top 100 of the ANC candidate list. Her nomination drew support from across the country and including branches that had a leadership preference different from hers going to the Nasrec Conference because, like all seasoned comrades, post-conference, there is political realignment as comrades rally behind the elected leadership."
Ntshavheni said she did not appoint herself to the position and therefore cannot offer a plausible explanation why the leadership of the ANC and alliance allowed Ramaphosa to appoint her.
She said she took exception to insinuations that she was "appointed as a reward for her work in the CR17 campaign".
She also stated that she was not related to Ramaphosa, as some media reports would have it.
"Attempts to delegitimise the leadership of women will not succeed and Ntshavheni remains focused on the tasks at hand," the statement read.