Top Gauteng govt official to be subpoenaed after no show at Alex Inquiry

City of Johannesburg City Manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni appears before the SAHRC Inquiry into Alexandra.(Sesona Ngqakamba,News24)
City of Johannesburg City Manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni appears before the SAHRC Inquiry into Alexandra.(Sesona Ngqakamba,News24)

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it will be motivating to subpoena a Director-General from Gauteng's provincial government who failed to appear before an inquiry investigating service delivery fuelled protests in Alexandra. 

The inquiry was launched by the SAHRC and the office of the Public Protector following violent protests in April. 

SAHRC Gauteng provincial manager Buang Jones said Director-General Phindile Baleni was expected to appear on April 18 after a formal request was sent to her. She failed to attend. She was again a no-show on Tuesday.

'Our duty is to hold government institutions accountable'

City of Johannesburg city manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni gave his submission on Tuesday. He was supposed to have been followed by Baleni. 

"On the April 18, the commission was expecting the presence of the Director General of the office of the Premier to appear before the commission.

"A letter was transmitted to her office and the commission has to date not received an explanation as to why she failed to appear before the inquiry panel on the April 18. She was expected to appear before the inquiry panel today, and she is not present," Jones said. 

READ: This is just 'a lot of boardroom talk' - Alex resident reacts to SAHRC, Public Protector inquiry

He said organs of the state had a duty to cooperate with the SAHRC and to help ensure that Chapter Nine institutions carried out their work effectively. 

"We are independent bodies. Our duty is to hold government institutions accountable. We would have wanted her presence here today in order for her to give a holistic assessment of what the Gauteng government has done in the last administration to address the distinctive needs of the people of Alexandra," said Jones. 

DG attended to a family bereavement

Jones said the commission was also disappointed that Baleni had not furnished the panel with any written submissions to assist the inquiry in its investigation. 

The provincial government said Baleni was unable to attend the inquiry because of a family bereavement and had sent officials to attend on her behalf. 

"These include two Heads of Department; Ms Thandeka Mbassa from Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as well as the Acting Head of Department at Human Settlements, Mr Daniel Molokomme," said provincial spokesperson Thabo Masebe.

Masebe said the Gauteng administration remained fully committed to the commission in its investigation and has at no stage ignored an invitation from it. 

He said on April 18 Baleni could not attend and had sent officials to attend on her behalf. Masebe said Baleni's non-attendance to the inquiry should not be seen as contempt. 

"As the provincial government we will await formal communication from the commission and we will be able to respond to it.  As far as we are concerned, we are satisfied that we have been able to respond to all invitations of the commission and ensured that there are senior officials who are fully competent to represent the provincial government at the commission," said Masebe. 

Jones said there was no written correspondence from the provincial government indicating that they would be sending officials in Baleni's stead. He said the commission wants Baleni to account in person in her capacity as the DG of the province. 

"To date we have not received any formal correspondence from her office that she couldn't make it on April 18 and that she would not be making it today. We need something in writing because these are formal proceedings that should be respected and taken serious," he said. 

Rat infestation

Lukhwareni faced several tough questions from the panel regarding illegal dumping, land invaders and other basic services of the township. 

The panel wanted to know what plans the city had in place to eradicate the infestation of rats in Alexandra. 

Lukhwareni said the best way to do this would be to start with the source of the issue, which is cleanliness. 

He said in the past owls had been used but this was not successful as residents were afraid of them. 

ALSO READ:Owls being decapitated in Alex

He said the city was now looking into an innovative cage system to help quell the infestation.

"We are busy testing that. We don't want to make the same mistake of the birds, where we introduced something to the community and it makes the situation worse," he said. 

The inquiry is expected to resume on Wednesday with the Department of Human Settlements and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs expected to give their submissions.

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