Whistleblower: ‘I’m not a racist’

2013-06-14 00:00

THE whistleblower in the multimillion-rand fraud and racketeering investigation into the KZN Health Department said the claim of racism against her is intended to discredit her.

At the Durban Labour Court yesterday, Kantha Padayachee said Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo and department head Dr Sibongile Zungu “wanted me out” in view of the information she handed over to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and “my vigilance in dealing with contracts that were entered into without due process being followed”.

Padayachee, on her own admittance, had supplied information to PwC, which was conducting the forensic investigation; and the Hawks, who were investigating what has become known as the “Amigos case” in which senior ANC veterans were charged with racketeering and fraud. The accused list originally included KZN Legislature speaker Peggy Nkonyeni (previously the Health MEC), Economic Development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, former ANC provincial treasurer Sipho Shabalala and a host of senior health officials.

Nkonyeni and Mabuyakhulu were alleged to have been party to a deal in 2009 to procure water purification plants and oxygen generating units from Intaka Holdings, owned by businessman Gaston Savoi. They were alleged to have solicited a bribe of R1 million for the ANC in return for giving his company the contract.

The case against Nkonyeni and Mabuyakhulu was withdrawn late last year, while Savoi still faces charges.

Padayachee was suspended for “misconduct” and is accused of racism. According to the charge sheet, she was disrespectful only to African staff by belittling them in front of other staff, insulting them and openly calling their competence into account in a vulgar manner. In one instance she allegedly told one African staff member “If I can bring my dog, it can count 1 200 files better than you”.

However, Padayachee says the charges are baseless and were simply manifested to remove her from her office. She says most relate to alleged incidents in 2006 and 2007, despite her only being formally charged in April 2010.

“I have had to defend myself against the derogatory statements and incur legal costs. I have had to cede policies and cash in my daughter’s education fund to pay my legal costs [to fight charges], which Zungu and Dhlomo have pursued against me in a malicious manner,” said Padayachee.

She said she is seeking relief from the court to have her disciplinary action stopped.

In her founding affidavit in a previous labour court action, challenging the department’s appointment of an independent investigator to probe the charges against her, Padayachee said that Dhlomo, who was appointed Health MEC in 2009, never wanted her in the position of legal services manager.

She said the department’s former corporate communications head, Leon Mbangwa, told her that Dhlomo believed her position should have been given to someone else, in line with a provincial ANC directive.

Mbangwa said in an SMS to Padayachee: “They want to put in someone else [in her position]. If we allow this it would be the end of proper public service.”

The department denied Mbangwa’s claim. It discredited him, saying he was suspended after lying about his qualifications.

The hearing will resume on November 25.

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