Co-operative Government Minister Sicelo Shiceka. Gallo images
A defiant Co-operative Government Minister Sicelo Shiceka on Friday ignored calls to resign, and vowed to go to court to contest the public protector's report on his repeated abuse of state funds.
"The minister categorically rejects all the findings of the public protector as baseless and lacking in evidence to support its recommendations," his office said.
"Accordingly, the minister will challenge this matter in court."
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that he had lied to the president about the nature of a private trip to Switzerland that cost the taxpayer R546,864, and wasted more still on two stays in Cape Town's luxury One and Only Hotel.
Madonsela gave President Jacob Zuma 60 days to take "serious action" against the minister who has been on sick leave since February, yet continued to travel domestically at state expense.
She said Shiceka also booked into the Lesotho Sun Hotel for four days in March and insisted his department pay the R357,120 bill with an accommodation voucher.
This amounted to "fraudulent misrepresentation" and was one of five instances where he violated the Executive Ethics Act and the Constitution, Madonsela said.
She declined to be drawn on what would be a proper course of action for the president, but opposition parties and the SA Municipal Workers' Union said dismissal was the only option.
"(It) leaves President Zuma with no choice. He must dismiss Minister Shiceka and make him pay back the money he stole from the South African people," said the Democratic Alliance.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions called on Shiceka to quit immediately.
"In every other democratic country, a minister faced with such damning evidence would have resigned, apologised and repaid the money fraudulently claimed from the taxpayer.
"Instead the minister has remained in office, claiming to be sick, while continuing to earn his full salary and benefits. He must now resign immediately," Cosatu said.
Madonsela handed her final report on the matter to the Parliament's joint committee on ethics and members interests on Friday but said a copy was given to Zuma on Wednesday.
She said Shiceka had lied to both her and Zuma about his trip to Switzerland in 2008 "which was of no benefit or any value to the state" but instead saw him visit a girlfriend in the Anstalten Hindelbank prison in Berne.
"Mr Shiceka travelled to Switzerland under false pretences and at state expense," she said.
"His actions were accordingly unlawful and constituted maladministration, dishonesty in respect of public money and improper conduct."
She said Shiceka claimed his trip was related to preparations for the 2010 Fifa World Cup and included meetings with Swiss officials, but said he could no longer remember who they were.
In his statement, Shiceka said Madonsela had "ignored overwhelming evidence" that his trip did benefit South Africa.
He also accused her of being inconsistent -- in reference to her recent clearing of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa of wrongdoing after he spent more than R700,000 on rooms at luxury hotels.
In her briefing, Madonsela said there was no indication that Mthethwa had personally sanctioned the bookings and he has subsequently issued a ban on further five-star hotel stays in his department.
She said Shiceka's two stays at the One and Only cost R294,316 for himself, and R226,746 for his staff and dismissed claims that his official residence in Cape Town was infested with mosquitoes and undergoing work.
"We questioned why the mosquitoes were not doomed away."
Her report includes a letter in which Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde informed Shiceka that a four-bedroom apartment had been put at his disposal as alternative accommodation.
She ordered that the director general of co-operative governance take steps to recover the cost of the Switzerland trip, the fare for the One and Only and the travel expenses of a close friend charged to the state.
Madonsela said officials who co-operated with her probe feared for their careers as some were approached by Shiceka's office after he was given the provisional report earlier this month
"This should not have happened".
She knew howe