File photo: Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
File photo: Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Who blew whistle on Pravin Gordhan’s chief?

By Mzilikazi Wa Afrika Time of article published Nov 22, 2020

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Johannesburg - A forensic company is set to receive a R250 000 “reward” to nail officials who blew the whistle on the appointment of the chief-of-staff to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and who does not have the proper qualifications.

Gordhan has appointed a forensic company to find whistle-blowers who leaked the information to the Sunday Independent on how his chief-of-staff, Nthabiseng Borotho, was appointed without the required qualifications.

The hunting of whistle-blowers and the actions of the minister are a clear violation of the Protected Disclosures Act (PDA), the central South African whistle-blowing legislation which came into force in February 2001 and was amended in 2017.

The main aim of the PDA is to protect whistle-blowers from being subjected to occupational detriment in their work environment.

As is the norm, rather than respond to specific questions the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) issued a general statement to all media that “some disgruntled officials, who may be affected by current investigations, have mounted a public campaign by portraying themselves as ‘whistle-blowers’ under the Protected Disclosures Act, and that they are being targeted by the DPE.

“The Law does not protect the malicious leaking of information for ulterior purposes by those accused of acts of corruption and malfeasance”.

The Sunday Independent reported in March this year how Borotho was appointed under questionable circumstances to be a chief-of-staff in Gordhan’s office without a post-matric qualification.

Today, the Sunday Independent can reveal that a forensic company, Abacus Financial Crime Advisory, has been appointed to investigate about 10 staff members suspected of leaking Borotho’s information.

The company was appointed last month.

On Friday morning, Gordhan’s spokesperson, Sam Mkokeli, accidentally posted a private discussion he had with the minister on the investigation on the department of enterprises’ national media WhatsApp group.

In the chat, Mkokeli was asking the minister what was the basis of such an investigation and why the department was “turning a blind” on allegations levelled against Borotho.

It isn’t clear when Mkokeli and Gordhan had the discussions via WhatsApp.

But in the message to Gordhan, the spin doctor asked the minister why the department “opted to investigate the leaks instead of the allegations against Borotho. Is there a particular reason why whistle-blowers, who expose wrongdoing, are being targeted?” Mkokeli asks Gordhan.

The former journalist also asked the minister if the department is “turning a blind eye to allegations that Boroko is not qualified for the position she currently holds”.

Mkokeli, in answering questions yesterday, released a statement through his attorney Clifford Levin which said: “Genuine whistle-blowers are an important part of our democratic existence and should be protected at all times. Pravin Gorhan was only recently the face our of our highest ethical and democratic ideals and we should never snuff out whistle-blowers in his name or right under his nose.

“The allegations against the chiefof-staff are easy to rebutt. The Department should simply release to the public her CV and deny that she appointed her relatives. This story would die in a second.

“Forensic investigations into whistle-blowers will create an environment of fear and dictatorship, exactly the things the ‘ New Dawn’ was meant to replace. Instead of listening to my counsel, the DG prefers to refer me as an internal critic, which is eerily similar to the ‘clever blacks’ tag many of us got during the Zuma days.

“I have raised an internal complaint relating to the stunning incompetence associated with the Chief of Staff and other matters symptomatic of a deep intellectual insecurity. Gordhan is fully aware of my disdain for both incompetence and dishonesty”.

Sunday Independent can reveal that the head of Human Resources, Tshegofatso Motaung, was suspended on November 5, 2020 as the alleged main suspect of the leak. She was suspended just days after she was grilled by Abacus investigators.

Gabrielle Zellerhoff, Abacus associate partner who is handling the investigation, on Saturday refused to answer questions.

“You must speak to the department of public enterprises,” she said.

A staff member who asked not to be named as he is part of the 10 people on the hit list of officials targeted for investigation by Abacus labelled the R250 000 offered to the company as “bounty”.

“We blew a whistle on the chiefof- staff whom we believe was appointed without even a matric certificate and now we are being hunted and victimised.”

The Sunday Independent reported in March that after Gordhan appointed Borotho, she turned the ministry into a family recruitment agency and allegedly hired her half-sister, Nancy Panduva, to the Cape Town office as well as another family member, Debbie Malopa, as a driver, in the same office.

Borotho signed Malopa’s letter of appointment last May, as chief-ofstaff, more than four months before she was appointed to the position.

Borotho and Malopa come from Gugulethu in the Western Cape and grew up on the same street. Borotho also posted photos of herself and Malopa on her Facebook page.

The Sunday Independent confirmed that Borotho went to Fezeka High School in Gugulethu where she wrote and failed her matric in 1995.

Borotho started working as Gordhan’s chief of staff on October 1 last year on a salary of R1 251 183 per annum and she receives a monthly allowance of R7 035.

Sunday Independent

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