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Northern Cape Premier Zamani Saul blasted for retaining a convicted HOD in his Health Department

Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul. File image.

Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul. File image.

Published Sep 2, 2023


Johannesburg - Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul has been accused of aiding and abetting fraud and corruption after he allowed his provincial health head of department (HOD), who was convicted of contravening the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), to retain his job.

The convicted HOD, Dr Dion Theys, is now facing new criminal charges of fraud and corruption in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court in relation to theft of more than R16 million of personal protective equipment (PPE) funds.

Now, Cope leader Pakes Dikgetsi is fuming at Saul’s decision of to allegedly ignore the charges against Theys.

In a strongly worded statement, Dikgetsi said the premier needs to learn the concept of good governance and public administration principles, saying his actions and lack thereof are aiding and abetting corruption, maladministration, and bad governance.

“His initial promises of clean governance differ from his actions over the years of his incumbent administration. It is shocking but not surprising that his appointment of some HODs and other senior officials in the provincial administration are people in the courts, and others have been actors for extended periods.

“The HOD and CFO of the Department of Health are back at work after being released on bail on Monday, August 28, 2023, in their ongoing corruption and money laundering trial. The same HOD was found guilty in the Kimberley Regional Court earlier this month on a separate charge of contravening the Public Finance Management Act. This relates to illegally renting nurses’ accommodation,” Dikgetsi said.

Theys, as then-acting HOD and accounting officer in the Health Department, was found guilty in the Kimberley Regional Court on August 16. The court found that he had concluded three lease agreements with JP Hugo Trading, amounting to more than R13 million, without following proper PFMA prescripts and procurement processes. The lease was for accommodation for nursing students.

The court sentenced Theys to a fine of R150 000 or three years’ imprisonment, of which R100 000 or two years’ imprisonment is suspended for five years, on condition that he is not found guilty of the same offence during the time of suspension. The fine is payable to the clerk of the court as follows: R10 000 should be paid on or before September 7 and after that, R2 000 should be paid on or before the seventh of each consecutive month until the fine was fully paid up.

A few days later, on August 24, Theys, 56, made another appearance in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court charged with fraud and corruption related to the theft of the PPE funds.

He appeared with the provincial Health Department’s chief financial officer (CFO), Mosimanegape Gaborone, 54, and seven other accused, including various companies.

While the other accused were released on bail on the same day, Theys and Gaborone were only granted bail on August 28, following a formal application.

The next day, Dikgetsi alleges that the pair returned to work despite the charges against them.

“Even more shocking is that the premier handed (him) a five-year appointment contract earlier this year, while he ought to have known that Covid-19 PPE charges against this HOD were provisionally withdrawn and were likely to be reinstated, which has now happened. The HOD and CFO are back at work, and things are normal. They are not suspended.

“The premier appointed the Department of Public Works’s HOD despite facing 217 criminal charges in the Upington Regional Court. He is still at work and not suspended. A senior official in the Department of Education, who failed to disclose a criminal record, is still at work and not suspended,” he said.

Dikgetsi said Saul’s administration resembles “a ‘Muvhango’ scene”, saying the director-general has been acting for more than three years.

According to Dikgetsi, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Land Reform had not had a permanent HOD but acting one for five years, saying some HODs were just recently appointed after acting in the position for years.

“There is an ulterior motive to allow this untenable situation, as it makes people vulnerable to manipulation. The premier pretended to be a ‘Mr Clean’ when he assumed office but now is covering up these compromised characters, corruption, and maladministration.

“It was just a matter of time before his true colours were exposed. This is the same character as the former ANC provincial secretary, who was the henchman of the convicted John Block,” Dikgetsi said.

He further alleges that Saul “issued political mandates to ANC members of the provincial legislature to block investigations into the controversial Kimberley Mental Hospital.

“He later described it as a ‘monument of corruption’ when he became premier in 2019; talk of dishonesty and betrayal.

“If President Cyril Ramaphosa is serious about fighting against corruption, maladministration, and bad governance, he must act against this incumbent premier of his choice,” Dikgetsi said.

The premier’s office had not responded at the time of going to press.

The Saturday Star