Paul Ngobeni’s job as legal adviser to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu hangs in the balance.
Sisulu suspended him without pay for 30 days with immediate effect on Monday after an internal investigation she ordered in the wake of his open letter responding to Planning Minister Trevor Manuel’s public attack on cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi.
On his return to work, Ngobeni must submit written reasons to Sisulu why he should not be released from his duties as her legal adviser, a ministry statement said.
Ngobeni was unaware of his suspension when the Cape Times approached him for his response on Monday.
“I’m hearing this for the first time from you. I can’t comment on something I don’t know about,” he said.
Ministry spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told the Cape Times that the letter of suspension was sent to Ngobeni’s lawyers.
Sisulu ordered the internal probe after Ngobeni’s letter to Manuel was published on March 6. In it, he tore into Manuel, accusing him of targeting Manyi in “a gangster-like fashion”, and suggested that President Jacob Zuma remove him from the cabinet for his “unconstitutional actions and political grandstanding”.
Ngobeni’s suspension follows his apologising “for the embarrassment the letter may have caused to … President Jacob Zuma and the minister”, and which he had written in his “personal capacity”.
Sisulu distanced herself from the letter yesterday. “The minister and the Ministry … would want to confirm that they are not part of this public encounter and have never been consulted or informed of the letter,” the statement said.
“The minister distances herself from the open letter and all its contents and wishes to reconfirm that the open letter in no way represents her views.”
Ngobeni entered the fray after comments by Manyi, when still director-general of labour, that coloured people were in over-supply” in the Western Cape were re-published, unleashing a race row.
His suspension was welcomed by opposition parties.
“He (Ngobeni) is reportedly a fugitive from justice in the US and is being investigated by the Public Protector,” said DA spokesman on defence, David Maynier MP. - Political Bureau