Irregular appointment puts KZN MEC in the hot seat

By: Rafeek Shah, MPL DA KZN Spokesperson on Transport The total budget of the KZN Department of Transport R9 341 457 billion, of which an amount of R296 231 million is dedicated to Programme 1 dealing with Administration. The purpose of the programme is to provide the Department with overall management and administrative, strategic, corporate support and financial services as well as human resource management, labour relations and legal services in order to ensure that it delivers on its mandate in an integrated, efficient, effective and sustainable manner. It is the engine room of the DoT. The success of all other departmental programmes depends on it. Today I will demonstrate how lack of sound leadership on the part of MEC Willies Mchunu and senior officials within the DoT is damaging the morale of junior employees as well as retarding service delivery in other areas of the department’s programmes. In early January I made an unannounced visit to the Motor Licensing Bureau in Umbilo, Durban. I found that a Mr Kamal, who is supposed to be the Assistant Director of the office, was absent and had appointed someone else to look after the affairs of his office. Upon further enquiry I learnt that this was in fact a normal occurrence and that he is a regular late- comer who spends more time at the Pinetown Branch, with a much smaller staff compliment of around 18 persons compared to MLB Umbilo with some 61 employees. I discovered that late-coming of staff members at Umbilo is common and that the access system was out of order despite this problem having been brought to the attention of Mr Kamal many months ago. In addition, infrastructure at this office is poor while toilet facilities for clients have been shut down. I also learned that since 2008, Admin Clerks have been acting as Admin Officers, Junior Admin Officers have been acting as Senior Admin Officers and that a Senior Admin Clerk was performing the duties of a Human Resource Manager. Letters of warning and other documents are also being issued by supervisors instead of the Assistant Director himself. All of this has led to very low staff morale. There is another much more serious matter that I wish to bring to the attention of the House – a matter that will demonstrate how, under the ineffective leadership of the MEC, the department has failed not only to adhere to established internal due processes such as its own recruitment policy, the employment equity act but also the rule of law. Before I substantiate my claim, allow me to remind this House that Part-1, of Schedule-1 of the Standing Rules of the Legislature which deals with Ethical Conduct states the following; “That Members must take decisions only in the interest of the public. That they must ensure at all times the integrity of the Legislature is maintained. That a Member of this House is accountable to the Public for his or her decisions and actions. That they must exercise public duties in an open and transparent manner. That they must act honestly and in the public interest at all times. That a Member must promote these principles by showing Leadership and by example.” This is what we, as elected public representatives, get paid to do. This is what the MEC has failed to do in the matter I now submit for your consideration. As I do so, I wish to seek your protection in terms of Section 117 (1) (a) of the Constitution which guarantees my right to freedom of speech unless subjected to any restriction that may be placed on such freedoms. I do so, because I do not wish to be subjected to the undignified and unfair treatment which was meted out to me at the meeting of the Transport Portfolio Committee on the 24 April, when ANC committee members tried to stop me from raising a matter of crucial importance forcing the Chairperson to rule me out of order. This after I requested that the MEC, through the Chairperson, submit a detailed report to the Committee on the circumstances surrounding the 2008 appointment of Ms N Thafeni to the post of Provincial Chief Traffic Inspector Midway. I was accused of being a liar, of making statements without foundations and merely reacting to whatever nonsense was being peddled in the media. They then resorted to the misapplication of the sub judice rule to silence me. The Latin term sub judice refers to any matter which is under judicial scrutiny before a Court of Law. In simple terms, it is a matter on which a judicial decision is pending. In this particular matter the Labour Court, having considered the matter, upheld the award of the Public Service Bargaining Council and dismissed the arguments of the Department and ruled against it in November 2013. The appointment of N Thafeni was set aside and found to be irrational, irregular and constituted unfair labour practise, and ordered it to re-initiate the appointment process for the said post. How then can this matter be considered sub judice when the matter has already been resolved by the Labour Court on Review? I wish to remind the House that the Labour Court has equal status to that of a High Court. The only matter pending is the appearance of MEC Mchunu who has been instructed to appear before the court on 22 May 2015, after having failed to appear on the 17 April. It is laughable that the MEC has now feigned ignorance and tried to create the impression that he was unaware he was required to appear. The DA has a copy of the subpoena dated 20 March which directs the MEC and the HOD to appear before the Court on 17 April at 10am to show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt of court after failing to comply with the arbitration award of the court. The subpoena was delivered to the MEC’s Legal Services Directorate by the Sheriff of the Court on the 27th March 2015 and duly received by Ms Thuli Hlongwe. Surely the MEC was advised of this court date? Did he not realise the seriousness of the matter? Or did he simply ignore it as a matter of no consequence? So here we are saddled with a situation where an individual who, according to the Bargaining Council and Labour Courts, lacks the required credentials and relevant experience within the law enforcement environment. This same person served City Parks and Gardens in Cape Town before being seconded to the junior position of Constable within that Metro and then parachuted to the senior post of Chief Provincial Traffic Inspector – a job which requires strong management skills. What the DA – and the Courts – cannot understand is; – How is it that a person without the necessary qualifications was leapfrogged over twenty applicants, two of whom had a collective experience of 40 years experience within the Traffic Law enforcement environment? – How is it that she was the sole person who was singled out for an interview and subsequently appointed? – Why did the KZN DoT not comply with the Labour Court order when this appointment was challenged in 2008 ,first in the Bargaining Council and subsequently whose decision against the Department was upheld by the Labour Court in November 2014? – If demography and gender were a consideration then what can explain the fact that two of the applicants were black females who were serving Principal Provincial Inspectors but were not short-listed for the interview? Documents in possession of the DA indicate that the Department was playing games with the Bargaining Council and the courts, frustrating them time and again. One example is the testimony of Ms Cindy Zwane, DoT Senior HR Manager who, in attempting to justify the appointment claimed, “priority had to be given to African females”. Indeed this is a noble objective if recruitment processes are followed and requirements of the Employment Equity act adhered to. And it is here that the issue becomes even more interesting. In a 2011 written parliamentary question regarding the same matter by my former colleague Mr Radley Keys, the question is asked; “Why, despite there being more females than males in similar position, was this post reserved for a black female candidate? ” The MEC’s answer states – “The post was not reserved for the female candidate; she did well in the interview and got the job.” I have a duly signed copy of this response which is dated 24th August 2011 and duly signed by the MEC. The question is – who do we believe? The MEC or his HR Manager? Yet another example of how the DoH is playing games are the recent attempts to demonstrate to the court that they have complied with the court order now that the MEC is in the hot seat; – They conveniently sent a letter of appointment dated 3 April 2015 to one Mr CM Duma indicating his appointment as Acting Station Commander for RTI Midway Station with immediate effect until further notice – the same position occupied by Ms N. Thafeni. – The same letter further stated that he should indicate his willingness to act in the position within 5 days of receipt of the letter. Mr Duma sent through a letter of acceptance 14 days later on 17th April. Interestingly this coincides with the very same day that the department was due to appear before the Labour Court, raising the question – was the letter of appointment backdated to the 3rd April? I suspect it was because I have in my possession a copy of the occurrence register which was being signed by Ms Thafeni up to and including 16th April – the day before Mr Duma was appointed Acting Station Commander. So, what does this mean? It means that when Mr Duma was appointed Acting Commander on the 3 April, Ms Thafeni was also signing in as Commander. So, Honourable MEC, you in fact had two Commanders for those days right? I now hear that Ms Thafeni has been shifted to a new position at Public Transport Enforcement Services, Operation Shanela. I wonder if proper procedures were followed in doing so and whether she is qualified for that new post? Perhaps this is what the MEC means when he says that the department has “complied”? There can be no doubt that the KZN DoH has many challenges such as budgetary constraints in meeting its desired objectives which include providing learner transport, road infrastructure and a host of others. The DA would argue though that the greatest challenge within this department is the MEC himself for failing to provide responsible and effective leadership. Apart from failing to acknowledge letters or written parliamentary questions from the DA, the MEC has now failed to respond to an order of a Court. We should therefore not be surprised when certain senior members of his staff become a law unto themselves. Failure to abide by court order undermines confidence in the Judiciary and the Legislature. If senior Government officials cannot abide by the Rulings of the Courts, then how can we expect ordinary members of the public to do so? The DA expects the MEC to explain his flagrant disregard for the Court Order and that too, for such a long time. This matter has been dragging on since 2008. He must also tell us how much taxpayers’ money was wasted in this futile legal battle as well as the salary of Ms Thafeni since 2008. The poor leadership shown by the MEC in this matter has brought shame and disgrace to the DoH and this House. The time to shape up is long past. The MEC needs to ship out in order to restore some integrity within this department. [END] ##################################################################################### Scanned by MailMarshal – M86 Security’s comprehensive email content security solution. Download a free evaluation of MailMarshal at www.m86security.com #####################################################################################