Mathonsi gets his post in local government after all

2014-10-26 06:00

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KwaZulu-Natal’s powerful provincial South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) secretary, Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, has been appointed premier Senzo Mchunu’s chief of staff.

There was no formal announcement but Mathonsi, who was re-elected by Sadtu for a third time just months ago, started his new job in Mchunu’s office this week.

Mathonsi (44) was most recently in the news when he worked alongside KZN attorney Comfort Ngidi to run a campaign aimed at discrediting Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.

His union is under pressure in KZN as a panel appointed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga starts its work in earnest, probing allegations of a jobs-for-cash scam involving senior Sadtu members in KZN and elsewhere.

Mathonsi is on the list of state witnesses to be called at the trial of six men – including Sadtu official Mfundi Sibiya – for killing the union’s Ugu regional chairperson Nkosinathi Zondi.

Zondi, a school principal on KZN’s south coast, was allegedly murdered because he blew the whistle on corruption involving Sibiya and other officials.

Mathonsi, a deputy school principal and full-time Sadtu shop steward, recently missed the cut for the ANC’s KZN parliamentary list despite the anti-Madonsela campaign and his own vigorous role in the ANC election campaign ahead of the May elections.

Mchunu’s spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya confirmed the appointment to City Press, saying Mathonsi had started his work as head of ministry – or chief of staff – in the premier’s office this week.

But he “rejected with all the contempt it deserves” suggestions that Mathonsi was being rewarded for his public defence of Zuma.

Sibiya said the job entailed managing the premier’s support staff and coordinating his interaction with government departments and “general stakeholders”.

“It will allow a greater focus on making an impact on the ground in terms of service delivery,” Sibiya said.

“The premier is confident that Mr Mathonsi will work with other branches within his office and other heads of ministries to ensure an effective co-ordination of the work of these stakeholders, so that they are part of the programme of action of the KZN government,” Sibiya said.

Both Mathonsi and Sadtu’s provincial chairperson Mabutho Cele declined to comment.

It is understood that Sadtu will hold a provincial general council at which a new secretary will be elected. Mathonsi’s deputy Marashiya Caluza is acting as his replacement. Unionists are stunned by Mathonsi’s move.

“This explains why he didn’t stand as deputy general secretary as planned at the Sadtu congress. It is strange though that he stood in the province in July knowing that he was going to leave,” said a former colleague who asked not to be named.

The DA’s leader in KZN, Sizwe Mchunu, said while the opposition party wanted to believe the premier would appoint staff on merit “this does to an extent smell of cadre deployment”.

“It appears that in this case we are seeing the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment at work,” he said. “This is of concern to us.”

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