Mabuza: No more Mr Nice Guy

2013-03-03 10:01

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So who’s the new guy at the helm of the Mpumalanga province?

That is the question on the lips of most residents of our very own “land of the rising sun” after Premier David Mabuza kick-started this year with a brand-new persona: No more Mr Nice Guy.

Mabuza has not shied away from talking tough against non-delivery lately and implementing unprecedented solutions.

He appears to be a man on a mission to shake off the provincial administration’s notoriety for corruption.

His tough talk started a few weeks ago when he removed three members of his cabinet for underperformance, a move viewed mostly by his opponents as a purge.

One of the MECs who got the boot was former health boss Dr Clifford Mkasi, who contested Mabuza for the provincial chairpersonship last April.

Mabuza also dismantled the top management structure of the human settlements ministry.

In the process, he removed his party deputy, David Dube, who headed the ministry, making him an ordinary member of the provincial legislature.

MEC Siphosezwe Masango, whom Mabuza brought to the executive in 2011, also got the boot for failing to meet housing delivery targets.

But digging a little deeper, one could spot contradictions.

When the premier dismantled the human settlements’ top structure, he merely moved managers to other departments without taking any punitive action against them.

The cases of head of public works, roads and transport Kgopana Mohlasedi and his health counterpart, Richard Mnisi, are perfect examples of Mabuza’s contradictions.

The standing committee on public accounts in the province recommended in 2010 that Mohlasedi be disciplined for paying rent of R4.2 million for offices that were never occupied.

He was never disciplined.

Mohlasedi was sacked as chief director for roads in 2005 on 13 charges, which included paying service providers for work that was never completed – at a cost of R8 million to taxpayers.

When Mabuza became MEC for roads and transport in 2008, he rehired Mohlasedi and then promoted him to the position of head of department after becoming premier in 2009.

Mnisi resigned in disgrace as chief finance officer in the health ministry eight years ago after he was demoted in the wake of a multimillion-rand scandal.

He and Riena Charles, the then head of department, were implicated in audit reports for allegedly squandering more than R19 million of the HIV/Aids budget and buying hospital equipment worth R30 million that was not ordered.

Mnisi returned as director of corporate services in the department of agriculture in 2010 and only last year was appointed head of health.

Two weeks ago, Mabuza told a top-level government strategic meeting that all heads of department and municipal managers who got disclaimers from the Auditor-General’s 2011/12 report must voluntarily quit – or risk being sacked.

He said: “If people know they have disclaimers, it would be better that they raise their hands and ask to be excused from their positions because we cannot keep quiet any longer.”

After Auditor-General Terence Nombembe painted a gloomy picture of the province a week later, Mabuza talked even tougher. “We’re at a point where we must take necessary actions because a disclaimer is an indication of stealing.

“As a ruling party, we’ve taken too much lashing from everyone... people saying we’re corrupt.

“Why must we take the lashing on your behalf I still dispute the fact that we have hard-working heads of the department and municipal managers.”

All of this is in contrast to a premier who, since taking over the reins, has developed a reputation for protecting cronies.

He has also been accused of failing to take tough action against his comrades, even if they are accused of corruption.

Whether Mabuza’s tough talk and stance is genuine remains to be seen.

He recently secured a second term as provincial ANC chairperson and premier.

His political opponents, however, remain sceptical.

Anthony Benadie, leader of the official opposition DA in the province, said: “I think this is just talk. I want to see action.

“(Mabuza) is considered to be a questionable character. This is a departure from the kind of things he used to say or do. He presided over the problems in the province for the past four years. Where was he all along?”

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