Shiceka’s dodgy affair exposed

2011-04-18 00:00

THE embattled Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Sicelo Shiceka, enjoyed an improper relationship with a top official whom he allegedly protected from being fired from a bankrupt municipality.

Instead, the attractive chief financial officer of the Madibeng municipality in North West province, Nana Masithela, accompanied the minister last year on a trip to Belgium and visited him in Cape Town.

Top officials tell how Masithela threatened anyone in Madibeng Municipality — headquartered in Brits and with a budget of R1 billion — who dared to oppose her that the minister was “protecting her” and that she was untouchable because he had personally deployed her to the municipality.

Masithela invited Media24 Investigations on Friday to a meeting to discuss her relationship with Shiceka. However, she didn’t keep the appointment and despite repeated messages, never answered her phone again.

Parliament’s ethics committee last week announced an investigation of Shiceka for abuse of public office and has referred allegations of wasteful spending to the Public Protector.

Shiceka was exposed by the Sunday Times last week, which reported that he spent more than R300 000 visiting a former girlfriend who was serving a two-year sentence in a Swiss jail and that he spent R640 000 of taxpayers’ money in one year on luxurious hotel accommodation.

Media24 Investigations is in possession of a commission report, marked top secret and presented to the North West premier in August last year, that describes an improper relationship between Shiceka and Masithela. The report, by a company hired to investigate corruption in the municipality, claims that the minister threatened to dismiss the municipal manager if he dared to act against Masithela.

Shiceka’s office appointed 38-year-old Masithela at Madibeng at the end of 2009 without her having any local government experience or relevant financial expertise. Her CV shows an MBA, but when later asked for proof, she couldn’t produce it.

She earned a salary of nearly R80 000 per month and because she was “deployed” by the ministry, Madibeng also had to pay for her accommodation.

Media24 Investigations has obtained letters and documents that show how Madibeng’s municipal manager and an administrator appointed to save the municipality from further financial ruin tried for almost a year to get rid of Masithela.

Around April last year, Masithela announced to Makobe that she was accompanying the minister on an overseas trip. She produced a letter from the ministry stating that they were going to investigate IT systems in Belgium.

Masithela had nothing to do with IT systems at Madibeng and didn’t produce any report or feedback upon her return.

Makgobe and the administrator of Madibeng, Eric Matlawe, were allegedly threatened when they wrote reports to the ministry that Masithela was incompetent and had no experience.

Makgobe was demoted shortly after his report and Matlawe discovered he was under investigation after he wrote reports complaining of her conduct after his appointment as administrator.

Matlawe says in an August 2010 letter to Shiceka that Masithela is hampering service delivery and “has plunged the municipality into further financial troubles”. He also wrote that there is evidence that Masithela was “colluding” with tender bidders.

The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has since early 2010 called for her dismissal.

Said Samwu shopsteward July Khoza, “She told me time and time again that we can do whatever we want, but that she is untouchable because she was deployed by the minister.”

Things got so bad by the end of last year that Matlawe moved to suspend Masithela, despite the threats and the protection she enjoyed. She was suspended with full pay and benefits.

She was charged with, among other things, gross misconduct, abuse of power, failure to conduct herself with honesty and integrity, failure to perform her duties and gross negligence.

The disciplinary hearing was supposed to have been concluded in January, but she reached a dubious settlement with the municipality in which she offered to resign in return for being paid until the end of her contract.

Media24 Investigations confirmed last week that Masithela is still being paid by Madibeng. Neither Matlawe nor Makgobe would comment on their relationship with either Masithela nor with Shiceka or his ministry.

Shiceka’s spokesperson said the minister would co-operate fully with the Public Protector to respond to the allegations made about him in the media, but said the serious nature of the allegations requires that he himself comment, and since he is on sick leave, he cannot do so yet.

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