ANC man gets the boot a 2nd time

2014-12-28 16:00

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Mpumalanga ANC bigwig Jacques Modipane was suspended this week – by the same parastatal that cost him his provincial cabinet job 16 years ago – for the theft of rhino horns.

Modipane, CEO of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), received his suspension letter on Monday.

By suspending Modipane, the MTPA board can begin its investigation into a host of allegations, including irregular expenditure and the theft of rhino horns.

But MTPA board spokesperson Tshepiso Masenya would not reveal any details about the allegations Modipane was facing.

“Among others, his suspension revolves around continuous irregular expenditure and the theft of rhino horns at the MTPA premises, which took place in April,” said Masenya.

However, Modipane is not among the four accused.

Gideon Mtshali (51), Leonard Sizwe Malatjie (34), Velly William Zwane (43) and Selby George Khoza (39) are being tried in the Nelspruit Regional Court for burglary and theft of the rhino horns worth about R116?million.

The horns were stolen from two steel safes fitted with double locks in a strongroom at the MTPA’s Mbombela offices on April 20. The safes had been cut open.

But Modipane said the allegations were unfounded and he had signed a settlement agreement the board had given him before he was suspended this week.

“I’m surprised. The board approached me and said I had done nothing wrong, but it wanted me to leave. I signed the settlement agreement and left on November 28. Now I’m home and I’m told I’ve been suspended,” he said.

“There have been attempts to smear me. I have nothing to do with rhino horns as the suspects have been arrested. I’m a politician and have a profile, so some people see my success in turning around the MTPA, which I found rotten with corruption in 2012, as a threat.

“In this province, it’s like there’s an apartheid spy who targets any ANC person who is doing well. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand this is a political game,” said Modipane.

However, Beeld newspaper reported on Tuesday that Modipane and the MTPA board agreed two weeks ago that they would pay him almost R5 million if he was prepared to “stand down.”

This amount is believed to be equivalent to three years’ salary, the remaining time on his contract.

Board chair Sipho Lubisi told Beeld he wasn’t aware of any such agreement and Masenya refused to comment on it, saying only: “He is suspended and it ends there.”

Modipane, a former Mpumalanga MEC for finance, is also a former member of the ANC’s national executive and provincial executive committees.

He said he had found the MTPA R110?million in the red, and had turned it around and fired corrupt executives.

Although Masenya did not want to comment, City Press has been made aware of a number of allegations levelled against Modipane since the rhino horns were stolen on April 20.

The board’s former legal adviser, Bheki Malaza, accused Modipane of trying to sabotage the investigation by insisting that members of the Wildlife Protection Services be part of the investigation. This would in effect mean that they would be investigating themselves since they were responsible for the safekeeping of stockpiles.

Malaza also alleged that Modipane had refused to provide the board with a copy of his qualifications.

Forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan was hired to vet Modipane and two other candidates when they applied for the job.

In his leaked August 2012 report, he said Modipane had falsified his CV by claiming he had an honours degree, while he had a postgraduate diploma in public management.

However, Modipane said the board had verified his qualifications before he was employed.

Former economic development, environment and tourism MEC Pinky Phosa saved Modipane from suspension in April. She fired former MTPA board acting chairperson Clara Ndlovu, who suspended Modipane shortly after the horns were stolen, for not consulting her first.

This time it appears the new board will not be derailed.

Modipane had to resign as finance MEC in Mathews Phosa’s cabinet in 1998 after it emerged that his signature was on three illegal promissory notes issued by Alan Gray, CEO of the MTPA’s predecessor, the Mpumalanga Parks Board.

Gray needed the notes as surety to financial brokers for offshore loans worth R1.3?billion.

The scandal forced Phosa to fire Modipane, even though he claimed his signature was forged. But Premier David Mabuza’s administration brought Modipane back to the cash-strapped parastatal when it was on the brink of collapse.

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