Probe into corruption, nepotism and poor governance claims at Robben Island Museum

An independent investigation has been instituted into allegations of corruption, nepotism and poor governance by the Robben Island Museum (RIM), Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said on Friday.

This comes after he met with the Ex-Political Prisoners Association (EPPA) which lodged complaints about the management of the heritage site as well as the RIM board.

"The allegations made by the EPPA against the Robben Island Museum Board and management are grave in nature. These allegations are primarily centred on issues of governance, nepotism and corruption," Mthethwa said in a statement.

"Worthy to note, is that upon being presented with these allegations, RIM leadership subsequently made its own counter-allegations against the EPPA. The counter-allegations made were also brought to the attention of the leadership of the EPPA.

"I have considered and consulted at length on both cases presented to me by each party. It is on this basis that I have decided on the immediate course of action- that is an independent probe.

"Mindful of the seriousness of the allegations that have been made by the EPPA against RIM leadership, in the interests of natural justice, it is of utmost importance that we undertake a formal process such as this investigation."

In an interview with News24 last month, the EPPA's national secretary Mpho Masemola accused the board of sidelining political prisoners, saying political prisoners working on the island as tour guides are earning "very little" and are on the same pay scale as tour guides who have not been exposed to the realities of life behind bars.

READ: Robben Island Museum hits back at ex-prisoners after claims of bad management

Masemola insisted the island was falling into disrepair and that the heritage site was not being maintained properly by those in charge of it.

He also alleged that the museum was being "Mandelarised", while the rest of the facility was closed to the public.

Masemola alleged that numerous attempts to meet with the museum board had been unsuccessful.

Museum council chairperson Sibusiso Buthelezi, however, claimed they had met with Masemola to discuss charter services to transport visitors to the island.

According to him, the purpose of the meeting was to ask the museum CEO to issue a letter of guarantee for their new boat, Madiba 2, which they are in the process of procuring from outside the country.

"Subsequent to the meeting, Mr Mpho Masemola indicated his unhappiness with RIM's inability to offer such a letter of guarantee which would have resulted in breaching procurement processes," Buthelezi said at the time.

"Mr Masemola then threatened to take action, including but not limited to going public on the matter of RIM refusing to issue the guarantee letter."

Buthelezi said all museum employees were treated the same in terms of an established labour relations regulatory framework.

He acknowledged the EPPA was an important stakeholder and encouraged its members to air their grievances through the ex-political prisoners' advisory committee.

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