New head causes concern

From the left are Steven Jonkers (new head of the Department of Health), Lebogang Motlhaping (MEC for Health) and Xolile Jack (Head of Ministry).Photo: Supplied
From the left are Steven Jonkers (new head of the Department of Health), Lebogang Motlhaping (MEC for Health) and Xolile Jack (Head of Ministry).Photo: Supplied

Controversy surrounds the appointment of the new head of the Department of Health, Steven Jonkers.

Last year Jonkers reportedly received a golden handshake of approximately R1 million from his former employer, the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison.

This compensation was due to the failure by Sylvia Lucas, Northern Cape premier, to renew Jonkers’ contract, along with the contracts of other heads of department.

The new appointment has caused a stir in the ranks of the DA and the EFF following the announcement of the appointment on Tuesday, 8 August, as they argue that Jonkers is not the right candidate for the job.

Jonkers was welcomed by Lebogang Motlha­ping, the MEC for Health in the province, who said the appointment is due to Lucas’ commitment to building up the administrative capacity of the Department of Health.

His term as head of department at the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison was oversha­dowed by controversial dealings made under his management, which resulted in charges of fraud and corruption against him.

Some of these charges are still pending.

Motlhaping said the application of Jonkers’ skills and experience will guide the department in fulfilling its constitutional mandate.

”He brings about change and a wealth of experience in an attempt to strengthen healthcare systems in the province,” said Motlhaping.

The DA and EFF dismiss this, as they feel that qualified candidates were not given an opportunity to apply for the position, as it was never advertised.

Isak Fritz, DA spokesperson, said he finds it inconceivable that someone with such a poor track record in financial management should be entrusted with the massive responsibility of overseeing the Department of Health, which is already in a dire financial state.

“During his tenure as head of the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Jonkers entered into a number of questionable deals. He went ahead with the forbidden lease of the Ocean Echo building despite advice to the contrary, advocated for the doomed intra-provincial airline and pursued the dubious multi-million rand deal with Wilco-vert, regarding which the DA is still waiting for answers.

“We believe that he has been strategically placed there by the dark forces who have captured the state, to ensure the continued looting of this department which, despite superficial attempts to combat issues such as fake payments, double payments and tenderpreneurship, remains a hornet’s nest of corruption,” said Fritz.

“The DA does not believe that Mr Jonkers is the appropriate individual to turn the Department of Health around. This will further threaten the state of this down and out department.”

EFF provincial leader Aubrey Baartman said that it was impossible for Jonkers to manage such a key department.

“He failed to handle the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, how can he be expected to manage such a big and key department and make positive changes in it,” he said.

According to Baartman, the EFF is still investigating the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) deal, for which R34 million was reportedly allocated.

“That is a lot of money that was mismanaged and we are still waiting for the relevant documentation to complete the investigation.

“How can the premier appoint such an incapable candidate when there are many capable candidates out there?

“This is nothing personal, because I never had a falling out with him, but it is the principles I am concerned about.

“We will wait and see whether he will prove me wrong on this one.”

The DA also promised to closely monitor financial decisions taken under the authority of Jonkers.

“It cannot be tolerated that funds intended to heal and treat the poorest of the poor are siphoned away from health services into the pockets of the connected elite,” said Fritz.

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