Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)

Former Gordhan spokesperson says public enterprises department targeting whistle-blowers

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published Nov 24, 2020

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Johannesburg - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is again caught up in an irregular appointment scandal.

This time, he is pressured to produce the qualifications of his chief of staff after ongoing claims that she did not qualify for the job.

This comes after the spokesperson for the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), controversial journalist Sam Mkokeli, openly bashed an ongoing forensic investigation into those who leaked information on Nthabiseng Borotho.

Gordhan is accused of having approved Borotho’s appointment last year despite her not having a matric certificate.

Borotho is also believed to have been a “runner” in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign where Gordhan was campaign principal. She is also accused of having employed two of her relatives in the department.

On Sunday, the protracted controversy around Borotho’s qualifications and suitability for her post was reignited after the Sunday Independent reported that a forensic probe was under way within the department in search of those who leaked the information relating to Borotho.

On Friday, Mkokeli had apparently mistakenly shared in a media WhatsApp group a private communication that he had had with Gordhan in which he registered his opposition to the forensic probe aimed at whistle-blowers and called for the allegations around Borotho’s qualifications to be addressed instead of hunting down staff who had blown the whistle.

In a statement late on Sunday, the department pointed out that Mkokeli was no longer speaking for it.

It is understood that Mkokeli had been instructed to resign.

In an apparent swipe at Mkokeli over his public utterances regarding the probe in the department, it said: “The DPE must emphasise that honest, ethical conduct and personal integrity are crucial requirements for all public servants in the execution of their duties.”

The department’s acting spokesperson, Richard Mantu, did not respond to questions sent to him.

On Saturday, the department defended itself against allegations that it was behaving illegally and against the law by hunting down whistle-blowers who were enjoying the protection of legislation.

Since the first publication of the allegations around Borotho’s matric certificate earlier this year, the department had failed to produce the document or openly deny the allegations around her.

On Monday, Mkokeli said he had been advised by his lawyer not to further comment on the saga. This despite him taking to social media earlier to criticise the ongoing probe within the department: “The DPE MUST cancel the forensic investigation into whistle-blowers TODAY. It is reprehensible. All democracy-loving South Africans should condemn it,” Mkokeli said.

He also gave the department until next week to answer to allegations made by Director General Kgathatso Tlhakudi that Mkokeli had resigned after he complained about his incompetence and implored him to address it. “I’ll give them till Wednesday to clarify the resignation matter, and the lies about my incompetence,” he said.

Right2Know acting national communications rights organiser Michael Graaf said: “In principle we support the rights of whistle-blowers”, but could not respond on the saga.

Political Bureau

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