KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture MEC Themba Mthembu. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

PIETERMARITZBURG - KwaZulu-Natal’s agricultural member of the executive council (MEC) Themba Mthembu on Wednesday, slammed “parasitic networks” that he says are undermining the performance of the provincial agriculture and rural development department.

Mthembu, who also heads the South African Communist Party (SACP) in the province, made the statement during a media briefing in Pietermaritzburg, to outline progress made in the department since his policy budget speech.

“One of the major challenges faced by the department are the parasitic networks which have caused major damage within the department. There appears to be visible footprints of a captured department by the parasitic network with strong connections inside the department,” said Mthembu.

He said that when he addressed the issue with KZN Legislature’s financial portfolio committee, he likened his department to “a damaged organ which cannot be fixed” and was in need of being transplanted.  

“We must also state that these challenges faced by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development are not new and have been ongoing for almost two decades. This has caused the department to see a turnover of seven MECs and ten [heads of departments] HODs including acting HODs,” he said.

The instability had destroyed the department, with the average time that MECs and HODs spent in office being a minimum of 24 months, said Mthembu.

This had impacted negatively on the organisational culture, professionalism, work ethic and efficient service delivery, which had been “exacerbated by politics”. 

“We are also aware of a very intensive campaign to paint a negative picture or image about the department by a variety of forces with different interests. This has been the modus operandi for years,” said Mthembu.  

Many people had been enjoying “undue benefits” at the expense of the department, he said.

“This leadership has unearthed fraudulent activities and is continuing to do so. Many cases of financial misconduct and collusion within the department have been reported to the SIU and the Hawks and we have also asked for intervention by Treasury in an effort to rid the department of corruption,” he said.

“In order to curb this corruption, the department is currently busy implementing consequence management emanating from the Auditor General Report and other forensic investigations. This has unsettled a lot of people which explains why the department is getting negative publicity,” he said.  

“We are currently working on a comprehensive corrective plan on all matters raised by the Auditor General. Recommendations of the forensic reports and observations done over three years will be duly implemented in order to turn the tide and bring about a culture of caring for the vulnerable in the province.”

African News Agency (ANA)