THE Office of the Public Protector has confirmed that it will be investigating allegations of “spousal nepotism and corruption” raised against DA-led uMngeni mayor Christopher Pappas.
Pappas has been accused of favouring an organisation headed by his former fiancé, Jean-Pierre (JP) Prinsloo, with grants and other benefits from the uMngeni Municipality’s coffers.
The potentially career-threatening allegations surfaced on social media platforms shortly after Pappas was paraded as the DA’s premier candidate in KwaZulu-Natal last week, in light of the national government election scheduled for next year.
In a letter to the public protector, Sizwe Mchunu, a former leader of the DA in KZN who has since joined the ANC, has called for an investigation into a R100 000 grant awarded to the uMngeni Tourism NPO in December, an organisation that Prinsloo chaired.
“Besides this being a precedent that has never occurred in uMngeni Municipality, the amount granted to Prinsloo’s organisation far exceeds any of the grants given to other entities advocating for a similar venture,” wrote Mchunu.
He highlighted that a company owned by Prinsloo, Growth Spurt Consultancy (GSC), which was appointed as consultants to the uMngeni Tourism NPO in hosting the Light Up uMngeni Festival, was only registered this year, while it already had been in operation.
Ndili Msoki, spokesperson for the Office of the Public Protector, said it received the complaint on Wednesday. “The file has been registered and is still to be assessed,” said Msoki.
Before directing the Sunday Tribune to the DA’s provincial leader, Francois Rodgers, to provide comment, Pappas said he and Prinsloo had been apart for about eight months.
“The public protector works on hard evidence and not baseless social media smear campaigns,” said Pappas.
Rodgers also believed the allegations against Pappas were “a politically motivated smear” because he was their premier candidate, and he would continue to treat it that way until presented with evidence.
“You have to ask: If this information was around, why was it not released before?
“The timing of this is suspicious, post the announcement.”
Rodgers was adamant that unless they were shown evidence that Prinsloo got an irregular R100 000 payout in December and that he also owned a consultancy, which received work from the municipality, they would remain unmoved.
“To take one man’s opinion is difficult for us to deal with as there is no substance to it.
“We have seen this before when the leader of a political party made racial attacks on Pappas, calling him a little white boy.
“Obviously he’s a threat. He is an effective and principled leader and has a track record of turning uMngeni around in two years,” said Rodgers.
But Mchunu has asked: “Compared to who is Pappas doing a great job?
“There are some mayors, in nearby municipalities and around KZN, who are doing even better.
“It’s just that they are not fans of social media and not marketed well.”
Mchunu confirmed that he sent the letter to the public protector after hearing the rumours and asked why Pappas did not use the opportunity to clear his name when he was interviewed on Ukhozi FM this past week.
“A person of his stature should have grabbed the opportunity to put these allegations to bed.
“I have found that he is somersaulting on these issues.
“Listening to that, only a naive person will not assume that there is something fishy.”
Having known both Prinsloo and Pappas and their relationship, Mchunu said he was aware that Prinsloo resigned from his position with the DA in eThekwini and relocated to uMngeni after his partner was appointed.
“When JP resigned he spoke about business interests. Is that the reason he relocated?”
Mchunu said there was no “bad blood” between him and the DA after he joined the ANC in 2019.
He said the DA was quick to call for democratic accountability when there were allegations against other parties but not themselves.
Prinsloo has refuted the allegations against him and said they were untrue.
“uMngeni Tourism, of which I was chairperson, operates under transparent governance and strict regulatory compliance. It is the only council-recognised community tourism organisation (CTO), and its financial allocations are judiciously deployed in alignment with a rigorously revised service level agreement.
“Furthermore, no third-party consultancy was involved in our community initiatives, nullifying claims of contractual impropriety. Financial transparency is maintained through audited reports, and ethical boundaries have been scrupulously preserved, reinforced by my separation from Councillor Pappas.”
Prinsloo said Pappas had consistently exercised prudence by recusing himself from any financial discussions that involved uMngeni Tourism, to eliminate any semblance of conflict of interest.
He said he had engaged his legal team to explore additional steps.
Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, said: “In accordance with our constitutional mandate, we have instructed relevant officials to conduct a thorough investigation and address the issue promptly and effectively.”