R5m exit gift for controversial Mpumalanga parks CEO

Jacques Modipane also had to resign as Mpumalanga finance MEC in former premier Mathews Phosa’s cabinet in 1998. PHOTO: Adele du Toit
Jacques Modipane also had to resign as Mpumalanga finance MEC in former premier Mathews Phosa’s cabinet in 1998. PHOTO: Adele du Toit

A controversial former Mpumalanga MEC has been given an exit settlement believed to be in the region of R5 million after efforts to link him to the theft of rhino horns worth R116 million came to naught.

Jacques Modipane, who had three years remaining on his contract, will leave quietly as Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) chief executive after both parties reached a settlement.

The horns were stolen from a storeroom at the tourism agency’s offices on April 20 last year.

Although there were attempts to point fingers at him, Modipane was never linked to the theft.

The Hawks arrested Gideon Mtshali (51), Leonard Sizwe Malatjie (34), Velly William Zwane (43) and Selby George Khoza (39), who are being tried in the Nelspruit Regional Court for burglary and theft.

But he was instructed to return to work on December 3 and when he refused because he had already signed an earlier exit package, he was accused internally of the horn theft. Irregular expenditure charges were also levelled against him.

He is now officially leaving the agency.

William Lubisi, chairman of the tourism agency’s board, said: “The agreement is that we part ways and we will not disclose the details.”

Modipane also declined to explain and could only say that the MTPA approached him for the second time to settle the matter out of court and he agreed.

“They approached me for a settlement. I had taken them to the labour court to explain the allegations they levelled against me. Maybe they thought they could walk over me. I think everything is gone with that case, that agreement,” he said.

Although Modipane and Lubisi were reluctant to give details of the exit package, City Press understands from sources that it is about R5 million.

In an interview last year, Modipane claimed his suspension was politically motivated.

He said he could not understand why he was being chased away after he had turned around the fortunes of the cash-strapped parastatal. Modipane claimed he found the tourism agency R110 million in the red because of corruption by staff members.

He said he fired five executive managers because he found that most of the debts were fictitious and only debts worth R44 million were genuine.

Politicians instructed him not to lay criminal charges against the officials implicated in the corruption, he said.

Lubisi said he could not confirm Modipane’s claim that he had turned the fortunes of the agency around as the board was new, having only started work in September.

“Whether that is correct or not can be discussed later. What is worrying though is that nothing has been done on the rhino horns and irregular expenditure matter,” Lubisi said.

Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, did not respond to questions on the matter.

Modipane is a former finance MEC, and a member of the national and provincial ANC executive committees.

When Mabuza approached him to take the CEO position at the tourism agency, he was about to start work in ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s office.

Modipane is not new to controversy. He had to resign as Mpumalanga finance MEC in former premier Mathews Phosa’s cabinet in 1998, after it emerged that his signature was on three illegal promissory notes issued by Alan Gray, CEO of the MTPA predecessor, the Mpumalanga Parks Board.

Gray needed the notes as surety to financial brokers for offshore loans worth R1.3 billion. Modipane still insists his signature was forged. He is not the only Mpumalanga parastatal boss to be given a golden handshake of late.

Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency chief executive Boyce Mkhize walked away with about R4.4 million last August after he resigned with three years and four months remaining on his contract.

That was after economic development MEC Eric Kholwane appointed a new board to take over the ailing parastatal.

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