MDDA board chairperson accused of ‘wreaking havoc’

Published Dec 8, 2022


Johannesburg - Discredited former SA Revenue Service (Sars) executive Hlengani Mathebula, now Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) board chairperson, is accused of “wreaking havoc” at the state entity.

The Nugent Commission discovered acts committed by Mathebula while he was the head of governance and communications at Sars.

Mathebula’s employment contract came to an abrupt end following the damning findings of the commission in 2018, but he nevertheless resurfaced at another government entity.

Mathebula suspended MDDA CEO Zukiswa Potye in April of this year. While Potye has gone through six labour processes and faces an appeal in the Labour Court of a case she won against the board.

During his first few months as the chairperson of the MDDA board, the board charged and disciplined four employees, all of whom were women.

“Mr Mathebula does not accept an independent view. The Nugent Commission found against this man, but we are forced to work with him. Surely the minister in the Presidency has seen the Nugent report. Persons linked to state capture should not be active in boards and organisations,” a source within the company said.

The latest saga saw yet another executive take the board to the CCMA over unfair labour practice, bringing it to over 10 labour issues dealt by the board under Mathebula’s leadership in just 18 months.

Reports of a conflicted board member, Brenda Leonard, a station manager of Bush Radio, hasn’t been dealt with by Parliament despite promises by the portfolio committee on communications to conduct a stringent oversight on governance irregularities and to investigate this.

The board continues on its trajectory despite being subjected to multiple investigations, including one from the Public Service Commission, the public protector, Corruption Watch, and the auditor-general.

The auditor-general has found that the employment contract of the former chief financial officer, Yaseen Asmal, who recently resigned after being granted an “indefinite” employment contract by the board shortly after the suspension of the current CEO, may be irregular. It is believed that the CFO could have resigned to avoid investigation by Parliament and possible liability for having refused to sign three employment contracts during his tenure as CFO at the MDDA.

The auditor-general has indeed found a regression in governance practices at the entity.

Potye’s performance remains undisputed, with the organisation delivering 95% of its planned targets for the 2021/22 financial year, despite her ordeal. Potye took the organisation from 44% to 95% with two years of clean audit opinions.

In the AG’s 2021/22 annual report to Parliament, the MDDA was found to have regressed in its governance under Mathebula’s leadership.

An insider close to the matter has confirmed that Mathebula may have been appointed irregularly in terms of the MDDA Act, which states that a person may not be appointed as a member if he or she has, as a result of improper conduct, been removed from an office of trust. The Nugent Commission, now adopted by the Zondo Commission, made adverse findings against Mathebula. The act also provides that, if a member, in terms of Section 4(1)(c), dies or vacates his or her office in terms of Section 6, the president must appoint another member to fill the unexpired term of office.

The MDDA funders have also expressed concern following the suspension of the CEO, who is largely credited for having stabilised the organisation prior to Mathebula’s appointment as chairperson.

Mathebula was not available for comment yesterday.

The Star

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