R1.5m golden handshake for tourism boss

The former chief executive officer (CEO) of Mpumalanga’s tourism parastatal, Charles Ndabeni, was given a R1.5 million golden handshake.

Ndabeni resigned from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) – a parastatal in the department of economic development tourism and environment (Dedet) – in August 2011 amid frosty relations with the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).

The union is, however, not happy and says he should have been charged because of alleged corruption.

Nehawu coordinator at the MTPA, Joshua Zwane, said the union was not even aware that the Dedet had reached a payment agreement with Ndabeni.

The union staged a number of marches calling for Ndabeni’s axing after accusing him of being extravagant and bringing the institution to collapse following MTPA’s failure to pay salaries, electricity, telephone and other bills on time.

At one stage during one of the marches, Ndabeni decided to work from Melrose Arch Hotel in Johannesburg – an action which angered Nehawu as MTPA was in financial trouble.

MTPA has, according to the latest Auditor-General’s report, incurred a net loss of R15 million.

Ndabeni’s payout came to light during a question and answer session in the legislature last week when Premier David Mabuza said the CEO’s continued employment was “untenable” and an amicable way had to be found to terminate his contract, which was to offer him a year’s salary. Ndabeni had 24 months remaining on his contract.

MTPA has remained largely dysfunctional and unable to carry out its duty of marketing Mpumalanga as a tourism destination of note. Private tourist organisations have been left to fend for themselves.

Said Zwane: “We’re not happy that this gentleman was let off the hook. The institution is still broke up today because it has to repay debts that he left behind.”

Dedet spokesperson Mohau Ramodibe could not give reasons why Nehawu’s allegations against Ndabeni were not investigated.

“(Ndabeni) reported to the MTPA board so you must speak to the MTPA,” said Ramodibe.

MTPA spokesperson Kholofelo Nkambule was not available for comment, as her cellphone rang unanswered.

Mabuza told the legislature that MTPA remained critical in driving and implementing the rural development agenda of Mpumalanga.

Tourism is identified in the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Path as the key driver for economic growth and job creation.

Mabuza indicated that the provincial government was working consistently to turn the institution around through stabilising its leadership, improving internal efficiencies to save costs and ensure that reserves generated revenue to sustain operations on a long-term basis.

“We are addressing challenges of corruption where this phenomenon rears its ugly head within the institution,” Mabuza said.

Ndabeni could not be reached for comment.

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