Whistle-blowers feel the heat

2014-05-04 15:00

Mpumalanga’s government has delayed its investigation into the R70?million spent on memorial services for late former president Nelson Mandela?–?but it is cracking down on those who may have leaked the information to the media.

Late last month, Premier David Mabuza transferred his special adviser, Jomo Mnisi, from his office to take up a post at the Thaba Chweu municipality in Lydenburg.

Three senior government officials and a legislature member told City Press that Mabuza suspected Mnisi had been talking to journalists and it was this which had prompted the transfer.

The provincial government had to pass a special budget adjustment bill and take money from the departments of social services, public works, cooperative governance, finance and human settlements to close the gap left in Mabuza’s office budget after the R70?million was spent.

This story, and revelations that Mabuza had spent R5?million on luxury vehicles?–?far beyond what is permitted by National Treasury regulations?–?prompted Mabuza’s officials to try to plug the leaks, the sources told City Press.

“The premier no longer trusted [Mnisi]. The leaks were thought to be coming from him as he is somebody who speaks when things are not done correctly,” said one source.

Mnisi declined to comment when asked if he was transferred because he was accused of leaking information.

“I can’t comment. If anyone wants to ask about my deployment, they must ask the premier’s office because I wouldn’t know [the reasons],” said Mnisi.

But Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, disputed Mnisi’s claim that he did not know why he had been transferred.

Mncwango said the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) had asked Mabuza to have Mnisi transferred to the struggling municipality.

Mncwango said: “Cogta needed someone who understands the dynamics of Thaba Chweu and since Mnisi is from there, he was chosen and he agreed.

“He’ll do a diagnostic review of the municipality and come up with a turnaround strategy.

“We’re not aware of the allegations that he leaked information and don’t think a person of his calibre could do that. He’s a special adviser who worked closely with the premier and even wrote his speeches.”

Mnisi’s transfer came two months after the head of security and protocol in Mabuza’s office, Welcome Nkuna, was also moved.

Nkuna?–?a former intelligence officer?–?was moved to the traffic unit in the safety and security department about two months ago.

Another source said: “This was what happened to Nkuna after [he and Mabuza] also had a fallout because Nkuna was thought to know too many secrets. ANC leaders close to Mabuza felt that he had become too powerful.”

Nkuna refused to comment.

A government official told City Press that people “feared their phones would be bugged and that’s why no more information [about the memorials] has managed to leak”.

“You could see it was a matter that government had to ensure it defended in the way it deployed four MECs to spin it to the media,” the source added.

The four MECs were Madala Masuku (treasury), Candith Mashego-Dlamini (health and social development), Simon Skhosana (cooperative governance) and Vusi Shongwe (safety and security).

They told journalists at a media briefing last month that the Mandela memorials expenditure would be left to the legislature and the Auditor-General to investigate.

In effect, this means that a new provincial legislature will have to investigate the matter after Wednesday’s general elections.

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