Whistle blown on arts boss

2018-03-11 00:00
IRON FIST IN A VELVET GLOVE Rosemary Mangope in her office in Newtown, Johannesburg

IRON FIST IN A VELVET GLOVE Rosemary Mangope in her office in Newtown, Johannesburg

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Rosemary Mangope, the chief executive of the state’s largest arts funding body, has been accused of irregularly giving herself a huge pay hike and bonus, and of using her power to irregularly award arts and culture development funds to her preferred projects.

These and several other allegations against Mangope, the daughter-in-law of late Bophuthatswana leader Lucas Mangope, have made their way to Parliament after revelations by two whistle-blowers at the National Arts Council (NAC).

One received a warning and returned to work, but the other, the council’s board secretary Mary-Anne Makgoka, was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing.

Approached by City Press this week, Makgoka did not want to comment ahead of her hearing. But her allegations are detailed in numerous documents and letters she sent to Parliament’s portfolio committee on arts and culture.

The Mangopes and the Kerzners

One of Makgoka’s central claims is that a R1.8 million funding grant was irregularly awarded to a project called Lalela, that provides art education to underprivileged children. Lalela is the brainchild of Andrea Kerzner, daughter of “Sun King” Sol Kerzner. In Parliament on October 3 last year, the department of arts and culture, which oversees the NAC, reported that the matter needed investigation. This was after the NAC “concluded the project did not comply with requirements” and “there was non-disclosure from the chief executive officer when she became aware that Lalela was owned by someone linked to her family”.

The Mangope and Kerzner families have a long history, dating back to when Kerzner was granted exclusive gambling rights for his Sun City resort in then Bophuthatswana. Reports at the time questioned what Mangope received in return.

Makgoka claims, in a document referred to as the “Molemo letter”, that Lalela was awarded R50 000 from the NAC for art supplies in 2012. But, because the first tranche of R35 000 was not properly accounted for on time, the project “expired”. A company with an expired record cannot receive further funding from the NAC, so the subsequent awarding of R1.8 million was irregular.

In addition, both Makgoka and two further impeccable NAC sources claim that the R1.8 million grant was irregularly pushed through by Mangope. It was not sent to the NAC’s arts development office, where compliance is monitored, and not sent on to an expert panel for evaluation. Instead, Mangope allegedly sent it directly to the NAC’s executive committee, which sent it to the board. Initially, say sources, Mangope denied knowing about the first Lalela funding, but City Press has proof that she signed off on it. “The board chair would joke about the family relationship when Lalela was discussed,” said a source this week.

A shocked Lalela manager Oliver Nurock said, when asked for comment: “It’s the first we’re hearing of this.” He vehemently denied that Lalela failed to account for money, saying its books were open and its operations were transparent. He provided City Press with numerous emails dating back to 2012 that appear to prove Lalela accounted for, or tried to account for, all NAC funding.

Mangope did not respond to questions about Lalela or any other allegations put to her. Arts and culture department spokesperson Zimasa Velaphi said the matter is under investigation.

It remains unclear, however, why Makgoka is facing disciplinary action but not Mangope, as recommended by the parliamentary committee.

Fabulous pay hikes

While the department, in Parliament, denied the extent of Mangope’s irregular increases, Makgoka’s account and other documents, including the NAC’s 2015/16 annual report, appear to support the claims.

At the time, the NAC board had been dissolved and Mangope was appointed as the NAC’s accounting authority. She effectively awarded herself an 18% raise in a single year, bringing her salary to R1 664 326 in 2016. She also received a performance bonus of R137 902.

In Parliament, the department and the NAC board chairperson Hartley Ngoato confirmed the bonus. Sources say the NAC’s own board found Mangope guilty of awarding herself an irregular increase, but she was not investigated. This week the department said it was investigating the matter.

Laptop seized and other claims

. Sources claim that Ngoato worked with Mangope and other board members close to her, to pack the board with friends and allies. The department denies this, saying board members were chosen through an independent public nomination process.

. When instructed by Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa to investigate the whistle-blowers’ claims, the NAC board chose Ngoato’s law firm to do so. He handled it personally and invoiced for R90 000 for his services. Board members are not allowed to become involved in operational matters at the NAC. The department says an independent investigator has now been appointed.

. Makgoka told Mthethwa in a letter how the board allegedly bullied her for raising questions. After 14 years as board secretary and an unblemished record, she was accused of incompetence.

. Things came to a head, say sources, when Makgoka had her work laptop removed from her handbag without her consent and evidence on it was used against her. She was suddenly told to report to Mangope and not Ngoato, as is correct procedure.

One NAC staffer told City Press that, despite the mounting claims against her, Mangope is confident she will have her contract renewed in August.

She is allegedly overheard to have said: “I am going to serve another term and am going to deal with those against me.”

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