'I am satisfied Ranjeni is innocent': Mboweni defends hiring journalist accused at Zondo inquiry

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Finance minister Tito Mboweni at the press conference before he delivered his 2019 budget speech  (Gallo Images, Brenton Geach)
Finance minister Tito Mboweni at the press conference before he delivered his 2019 budget speech (Gallo Images, Brenton Geach)
  • Minister Tito Mboweni said legislation allowed ministers to fill vacancies without advertising.
  • Mboweni appointed former political journalist Ranjeni Munusamy as a community engagement officer.
  • Munusamy has denied allegations of using money from a crime intelligence fund to pay off her car finance.

Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni has stood by his decision to appoint former political journalist Ranjeni Munusamy as a community outreach officer in National Treasury despite serious allegations made against her at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Mboweni was replying to questions from Members of Parliament during a hybrid plenary on Wednesday afternoon. Mboweni appointed Munusamy to the position without advertising and maintained that it was his prerogative to do so.

Last year an investigator at the Hawks, Kobus Roelofse, testified before the Zondo Commission that Munusamy received R148 000 in 2008 from a crime intelligence fund to pay off her car finance. Munusamy has denied these claims.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Floyd Shivambu asked why Mboweni employed Munusamy in his office despite the allegations against her. He also asked whether the post she occupied was advertised and what the responsibilities of the position were.

"The person was appointed because the person possessed the requisite skills for the position to be occupied. She is highly qualified, has extensive knowledge of politics and therefore can give sufficient support to the minister of finance," said Mboweni.

Mboweni said Section 9 of the Public Service Act of 1994 read with Regulation 66 of the public service regulations of 2016 allowed ministers to fill vacancies without advertising. He said the responsibilities of a community outreach officer include managing stakeholder engagement.

'Urban legend'

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Ntombovuyo Mente asked Mboweni if Munusamy – a seasoned political journalist – was ghost writing the minister's biographical book. Mboweni said this was not true, slamming the claims as an EFF "urban legend".

"Ranjeni Munusamy is not writing a book for me. That is an urban legend created by the EFF. I know you. You guys create stories. My book is written by a different ghost writer and in any event, it will be published when I am over 70 years old or dead," Mboweni said.

Mboweni said he spoke to Munusamy upon her appointment about the allegations against her at the Zondo Commission and said he was confident that she was innocent, based on the information that she gave him.

"I know she has been in the commission. I have satisfied myself with the facts before me that until I see and compelling evidence, she can work in the office. She is highly competent and able to do her job very well. If she is found to have been guilty of wrongdoing, she will be out of my office, but that is not the case," he said.

Democratic Alliance MP Geordin Hill-Lewis challenged Mboweni, saying: "You are the custodian for Treasury. You should have delayed this appointment until Munusamy cleared her name and you should consider reversing it. How did she not know that over R100 000 was paid into her account?"

"I should make it very clear that having discussed this matter with her and been satisfied by her explanation, I have no reason not to believe that the matters will be cleared before the commission, based on the information I have now. I don't want to interfere in the commission," Mboweni replied.

In response to another supplementary question from African National Congress MP Dipuo Peters, Mboweni said corruption was a serious global issue and that South Africa needed to do all we can to fight it even as it "manifests in what might look like small ways".

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