Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane is gunning for the Overberg Water Board.Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips

Cape Town - Water and sanitation department director general Dan Mashitisho has been given a notice of intention to suspend, subject to him providing reasons as to why he should not be suspended, the ministry said on Sunday.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane had "requested the DG to provide these reasons based on transgressions considered serious by the minister, as per the the minister’s correspondence to the DG", her spokesperson Mlimandlela Ndamase said.

"Adherence to the principles of confidentiality in the matter is critical so as not to tarnish the integrity of the DG before a fitting process has been finalised. In this regard, once a response is received and considered a decision on the matter will be made accordingly.

"As is common course, this process is confidential and is a matter between the employer and the employee concerned. As with all such matters, the department and ministry will be guided by established legislation and labour practices in this regard," Ndamase.

Mokonyane's statement follows a report in City Press earlier on Sunday, saying Mokonyane had suspended Mashitisho after barely six months on the job.

Mokonyane, who appointed Mashitisho in December, "axed him this week, accusing him of a litany of charges", including failing to appear before the water and sanitation portfolio committee in parliament on June 7; "casting the minister’s integrity in poor light" following his interaction with the water and sanitation portfolio committee and the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa); failing to finalise the terms of reference regarding investigations into various tenders in the department; and failing to prepare for a meeting, last month, during which the department met Treasury to discuss its finances, the newspaper reported.

"Mashitisho replaced Margaret-Anne Diedericks, who resigned in July last year following a fall-out with Mokonyane. His axing is the latest in a string of suspensions and resignations in the department’s executive."

Two senior executives in the department told City Press Mokonyane’s reasons for axing Mashitisho were a ruse. 

The real reason, they said, was Mashitisho’s refusal to sign a letter authorising Werksmans Attorneys to start work at the department. Mokonyane wanted the law firm to be handpicked, without following the proper procurement process, to probe a number of contracts in the department. 

Documents obtained by City Press reveal Mokonyane had wanted to deviate from an open public tender and directly appoint Werksmans. The department’s legal unit cautioned against the direct appointment of the firm, the newspaper reported.