Johannesburg - An attempt to suspend yet another employee has resulted in Zami Nkosi’s bid to keep his job as CEO of the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (Usaasa) being dealt a severe blow in the North Gauteng High Court this week.
Board administrator Gontse Dlamini has made good on her threat to “obliterate” a previous affidavit that supported his case in litigation brought by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to remove Nkosi from his post, arguing that his appointment was unlawful and invalid, and that former communications minister Dina Pule had unlawfully pushed his appointment through.
On Monday, Judge Tati Makgoka dismissed Nkosi’s bid to block the admission of Dlamini’s new affidavit into evidence, saying it was in the interest of justice that it be allowed in.
Nkosi declined to speak to City Press this week, claiming the matter was sub judice.
But his attorneys later responded on his behalf, claiming Dlamini was under investigation at the time of her suspension and her employment was terminated by mutual agreement in December.
“Save for the statements being tantamount to hearsay, our clients have been advised not to litigate through the press, as the entire application remains to be resolved in the appropriate forum,” said Werksmans Attorneys’ Harold Jacobs.
Makgoka also allowed another affidavit from Leago Human Capital director Adelaide Tshandu (nee Matlejoane) – which the SIU said in papers was Pule’s boyfriend Phosane Mngqibisa’s sister-in-law.
Last August, Nkosi notified Dlamini of his intention to suspend her as a precautionary measure, saying an Icasa councillor had laid a charge with the police.
In response, Dlamini said she was pressured to attest to the affidavit drafted on her behalf, which was not a true reflection of events, and would seek legal advice to replace it.
Despite her response, Dlamini has been suspended from the agency, where her duties included drafting minutes of board meetings, according to sources close to the matter.
This brings to five the number of employees suspended in connection with the saga, which began when two former employees blew the whistle on corruption and maladministration to United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa.
Holomisa wrote an open letter to President Jacob Zuma, who then signed a proclamation enabling the SIU to investigate.
Three days before Nkosi informed her of his intention to suspend her, Dlamini signed an affidavit supporting board chairperson Pumla Radebe’s claims that any suggestions in minutes of a November 2012 meeting that Pule applied pressure to appoint Nkosi were due to Dlamini’s poor grasp of English.
This affidavit also stated that the minutes were not taken verbatim, as deliberations on candidates for the chief executive post were done during a closed session, from which Dlamini was absent.
The minutes are crucial to the SIU’s case because they prove Pule interfered in Nkosi’s appointment.
Dlamini now says that when she expressed discomfort with the contents of this affidavit, Radebe told her not to be concerned, demanding loyalty to the agency.
Tshandu had previously denied knowing or having had contact with Radebe. But her cellphone records gave her away – they showed she had been in regular contact with Radebe even before Usaasa abandoned its internal recruitment process, allegedly at Pule’s bidding, and hired her company to find a chief executive.
After the SIU confronted her with the cellphone records, Tshandu agreed to supply the SIU with information about the recruitment process, and deposed to the new affidavit.
Tshandu did not respond to City Press’ requests for comment.
As the Universal Service and Access Agency slugs it out with the Special Investigating Unit over corruption and maladministration within its ranks, Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele is considering raising the amounts electronic services operators pay into a multimillion-rand fund managed by the agency.
Last week, Cwele told Parliament his department, together with Icasa, would review the levy for the Universal Service and Access Fund to bring the country “in line with other developing countries”.
“The purpose is to close the wide gap in infrastructure provisions between urban and rural areas,” he said. “The law allows for the levy to go up to 1% of revenues. The levy has been set at 0.2% since inception.”
In 2013, the country’s largest mobile operators, Vodacom and MTN, paid an estimated R173.2 million into the fund.
City Press reported last year there was no clear accounting for where the money went after operators paid it over to Icasa, as the amounts paid and the amounts reported in the fund’s accounts did not match.
Both Vodacom and MTN have recently hiked tariffs for contract customers, as rising operating costs, including cash spent on diesel during load shedding, exchange rate volatility and mobile termination rate reductions took a toll.
Richard Boorman, a spokesperson for Vodacom, which suffered expenses totalling R2 billion on these cost factors, said the company was studying the proposal.
“I wouldn’t want to speculate on the potential impact,” he said.