Controversial politico gets top tourism job

2012-09-17 22:37
Mpumlanga provincial government

Mpumlanga provincial government

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Mbombela - Mpumalanga has appointed a controversial politician to head the provincial parks and tourism agency despite his role in attempts to sign away 32 of the province's game reserves as collateral in a massive offshore loans scheme 10 years ago.

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and his MECs approved the appointment of Jacques Modipane as the chief executive of Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) during a recent cabinet meeting.

"Mr Modipane's appointment was approved by the Executive Council during its sitting of 5 September 2012. His appointment was with immediate effect," department of economic development, environment and tourism spokesperson Mohau Ramodibe told African Eye News Service.

Asked if Modipane's track record with the MTPA was considered, Ramodibe was quick to point out that the department's MEC Norman Mokoena was not part of the shortlisting or interviewing panel that appointed Modipane.

Altogether 10 candidates were shortlisted from a possible 52 people who applied.

In the past, Modipane resigned twice as provincial finance MEC and was once suspended from the ANC after he was implicated in the secret issue of six illegal promissory notes worth R1.3bn in 1998.

On 27 October 1998, he wrote to ANC Johannesburg headquarters and then president Nelson Mandela pleading his innocence.

Despite this, then Premier Mathews Phosa accepted his resignation in October 1998 after he instructed forensic auditors Gobodo to investigate the promissory notes scandal.

When Ndaweni Mahlangu replaced Phosa as the province's premier, he again appointed Modipane as an MEC.

On 12 May 2000, Mahlangu, however, had to ask Modipane again to resign after Gobodo’s final report "heavily implicated" Modipane in the scandal.

At least three of the notes, issued by the then Mpumalanga Parks Board (MPB), had the signature of Modipane and were allegedly issued to shady brokerage Fenetic Investments with his approval.

Fenetic's owner, Moshe Regenstreich, was wanted for fraud, diamond theft and dealing in chemical weapons. He was on the run from the Swiss police and Interpol at the time.

The deals between MPB and Fenetic were also branded illegal by then national finance minister Trevor Manuel and the Reserve Bank and were cancelled by Judge Willem Heath in July 1999.

Modipane first denied that it were his signatures and insisted they were electronically or manually forged.

Then MPB chief executive Allan Gray and two prominent provincial politicians close to Modipane, including former ANCYL provincial secretary James Nkambule, were arrested on 72 financial misconduct and fraud charges.

Gray died shortly after all his assets were auctioned off by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) while Nkambule died mysteriously in October 2010.

Before his appointment as MTPA chief executive, Modipane worked as the secretary to the provincial House of Traditional Leaders in Mbombela.

The MTPA has stumbled along since Modipane’s tenure as MEC and Gray at the head of the agency.

In 2008, the entire senior management resigned or were dismissed after less than one year in office.

Some of the departing managers were apparently pushed to resign as the MTPA board, under the leadership of Lassy Chiwayo, began to grill officials about apparent performance failures.

Chiwayo was later deployed to Mbombela local municipality to save it from ruin before the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
S

ince then, Premier Mabuza's cabinet has loaded the MTPA board with politicians like former Ehlanzeni district mayor Jerry Ngomane, who is the chairperson, and former Thaba Chweu mayor Clara Ndlovu, as Ngomane’s deputy.

They both have been removed as mayors in the past.

Since the MTPA has struggled with its budget, it has pulled out of funding the Metro FM Awards this year after it paid more than R11m to host the awards at the Mbombela stadium last year.

Mokoena, who heads department of economic development, environment and tourism, the MTPA's umbrella department, decided this year that the Metros would not be funded.

Last year, MTPA employees were afraid they will lose their benefits after contributions were not paid across to their medical schemes and provident funds.

At the time, former MTPA chief executive Charles Ndabeni sent a memo to all staff blaming the department for the delays in paying the schemes and funds.

When contacted for comment on Wednesday, board chairperson Ngomane promised to respond to written questions but had not done so by Thursday midday.\

Modipane could not be reached on his cellphone as it was off.

MTPA spokesperson Kholofelo Nkambule said the board believes security vetting processes were undertaken before Modipane was appointed.

"The results of the vetting cleared the chief executive officer, Mr Jacques Modipane, hence the confirmation of his appointment effective 10 September 2012," she said.

Read more on:    david mabuza  |  mbombela  |  local government  |  politics
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