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Johannesburg - Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha will suspend some of his provincial heads of departments tomorrow after his predecessor, Cassel Mathale, failed to take action for more than seven months.
Some of them could face criminal charges.
The Sunday Independent understands that following Mathabatha’s appointment last month, charges have been formulated.
In the past two weeks, Mathabatha has met with Public Service and Administration director-general Mashwahle Diphofa and national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega to discuss the charges.
The charges include fraud, corruption and maladministration.
Public Service and Administration spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya said the department was assisting in processing the charges as the custodians of the senior management service. The department had handed over the investigation to the premier’s office, which would decide who to charge.
Phiyega’s spokesman, Solomon Makgale, did not wish to respond to media queries about the meeting.
He, however, confirmed that Phiyega had been in Limpopo and that the Hawks were part of the investigations.
Mathabatha’s spokesman, Kenny Mathivha, would not confirm which heads of departments would be suspended, but said “big fish would be charged”.
“We will be charging heads of departments who have flouted the rules, who have been found to have transgressed in a lot of things. That’s one of the things we were getting advice on from Public Service,” said Mathivha.
“We are tightening the screws, when we charge them, if they have to go they have to go for good.
“It is a cleaning process. It is not purging. When they query it we must be able to say ‘this is the evidence’,” he added.
Tomorrow’s suspensions come just one month after Mathabatha fired eight of the province’s 10 MECs and reshuffled the remaining two.
It follows an intense quarrel between Mathale and the intervention team sent to the province after President Jacob Zuma placed five departments under administration spanning several months.
In April The Sunday Independent reported that Mathale was frustrating and hampering corruption investigations into top civil servants by refusing to institute disciplinary actions against heads of departments accused of corruption.
Mathale had questioned the legality of procedural documents compiled for investigations.
The intervention team had provided Mathale’s office with charges for officials, but the office has demanded the investigation report into each official before taking action.
The intervention team however refused to provide the documents.
Mathale’s director-general, Rachel Molepo-Modipa, was given a legal opinion by the legal services unit, advising Mathale not to take action against a head of department because the investigation report on which the charges were based “lacked justification”.
Molepo-Modipa disputed the authenticity of the memorandum.
As a result of the spat, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was forced to leave Diphofa in the province to clear the dispute.
Last month Mathale was removed as premier.
An official within Mathabatha’s office, who could not be named as they are not mandated to speak to the media, said part of the challenge in suspending the heads of departments was that Mathale had delegated the powers of charging heads of departments to his MECs and as a result he could not charge them.
Ironically, the MECs could not charge the heads of departments either, as heads of departments are appointed by the premier.
“When you delegate powers to that level it complicates things. These people could turn around and say that MECs are not allowed to charge them.
“When Mathabatha came into office, he found these clauses, which he needed to be corrected by withdrawing the delegations,” said the official.
“We want to do this the right way (so that we do not have any comebacks),” said the official.
The Sunday Independent also understands that Mathabatha will be meeting the province’s municipal managers and councillors, following the report into the country’s municipalities by auditor-general Terence Nombembe.
Nombembe found that while audit outcomes had showed gradual improvement, the most recent results “reflected a regression for the second year in a row”.
Only one municipality received a clean audit opinion and one received an unqualified opinion with other matters.
Nombembe blasted political infighting in the province, saying tensions between councils and provincial leaders harmed governance in municipalities controlled by the same ruling party.
“At the Greater Giyani, Greater Tzaneen, Lepelle-Nkumpi and Polokwane municipalities it was clear that certain staff members were set on discrediting management by facilitating poor outcomes, in some cases going as far as outright sabotage by withholding pertinent information and/or documents,” he said.
The insider in the premier’s office said Mathabatha would be cracking the whip on municipalities.
“All these shenanigans were happening and a lot of money was channelled to certain things.
“By the next financial year, we should look back with pride.
“We should be able to say we have done… people have been charged, people have been arrested, people being fired,” said the insider. – Additional reporting Moshoeshoe Monare. - The Sunday Independent