Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has dismissed as “unsubstantiated” and “malicious” the allegations made by a group of “ANC comrades” in the department of transport who lashed out against him in a letter written to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In his letter in response to the staff members’ allegations that there were several irregularities in the department, including unlawful appointments and corrupt dealings by the department in its procurement of personal protective equipment, Mbalula said the group was an external force masquerading as staff members.
The group also accused him of acting like a celebrity and not paying attention to his work.
“I have taken an unusual stance to respond to the letter doing the rounds on social media platforms and which has begun to overflow into mainstream media,” Mbalula wrote.
“This unusual stance is informed by the principled need to set the record straight and curtail the pervasive culture of the letter.
“The masterminds and crafters of this anonymous letter masquerade as staff members of the department and its public entities, yet a closer look at them through their malicious piece of work suggests the contrary.”
Mbalula said the allegations that he had employed various unqualified leaders was an example of the “cognitive height and craftsmanship behind the group’s unsubstantiated barrage of allegations based on factual distortions and smear campaigning”.
Mbalula added that people with intimate knowledge of his department would know that it was full of people with great “talent, skill, knowledge and discipline”.
“We have taken note that the crafters of this anonymous letters refer to themselves as ANC comrades, members, supporters and volunteers from the department of transport and its state-owned enterprises.
“We need to remind them about the president’s statement, which takes a dim view of state employees getting involved in party political terrain, and questioning the bona fides of elected leaders is a recipe for disaster and needs to be firmly condemned,” the minister said.
Mbalula also dismissed allegations that he employed his department’s director-general, Alec Moemi, without qualifications, but rather based on their friendship.
“Myself and the director-general, Alec Moemi, know each other from our days in the ANC Youth League. Our relationship has always been cordial, but most professional.
“We are by no means friends or buddies, and even in our previous professional lives, none of the matters we are being accused of has ever taken root,” said Mbalula.
He added that the people making the allegations were “conveniently forgetting that this department had not had a director-general for more than four years” and, as such, an appointment had to be made.
Mbalula also took the opportunity to justify the appointment of his political adviser Lawrence Venkile, who was accused of masquerading as the minister.
He said Venkile was an experienced civil servant who had “served the department of transport previously with the greatest dedication and aptitude”.
“Venkile has never claimed qualifications he does not possess. Accordingly, the allegations around his qualifications are baseless and devoid of any truth. In addition, Venkile has never dismissed anyone from any previous employment in his working history.”
He also defended his spokesperson Ayanda-Allie Paine, who was labelled a celebrity appointment and accused of lacking communications acumen.
“It is unfortunate that the authors of this letter chose to attack the qualifications and integrity of Paine, [who] is fully qualified in journalism with the relevant university degrees and extensive work experience in the journalism field.”