Gordhan’s alleged campaign against officials linked to former DG

Minister Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has been accused of targeting and victimising officials who are linked to former director general Kgathatso Tlhakudi. File Photo

Minister Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has been accused of targeting and victimising officials who are linked to former director general Kgathatso Tlhakudi. File Photo

Published May 26, 2024


OUTGOING Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan is allegedly running a campaign to remove officials linked to former director-general Kgathatso Tlhakudi ahead of the elections.

His five year tenure at state entities as been described as disastrous by his detractors as struggling power utility Eskom and logistics firm Transnet’s poor performances have dragged down South Africa's economic growth.

It has also been alleged that Gordhan has been appointing his associates to key positions before his exit.

Tlhakudi has written to the Public Service Commission (PSC) to intervene and investigate Gordhan’s conduct.

Tlhakudi, who said this could be Gordhan’s revenge move against him, told the PSC that the majority of the affected officials were black women who were suspended and removed through dubious processes and harassment.

Instead of responding to specific questions, Gordhan’s spokesperson, Ellis Mnyandu, said yesterday released a statement that this newspaper intended to publish unfounded and baseless claims regarding “ongoing human resource process” involving departmental employees.

Mnyandu said Gordhan does not get involved in HR matters of the department as that was the purview of the acting director-general, who is the administrative accounting authority.

“All matters pertaining to staff disciplinary actions are also the prerogative of the acting director general as directed by the prescripts and framework of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), which sets the norms and standards to ensure that the state machinery functions optimally, and that such norms and standards are adhered to, among other responsibilities,” read the statement.

Tlhakudi said the victimised officials had served the country with distinction and honesty during his tenure in office.

“They are some of the brightest minds in public service. It cannot be right that this is allowed to happen when this country celebrates 30 years of democracy. The fact that it has taken three years of constant harassment, on the basis of rooting out maladministration, shows that this Minister never had a case to start with,” he said.

In one of the charge sheets that this publication has seen, one of the employees was charged for failing to respond to the request for interim support from the department. The employee was also charged for failing to escalate the request to the office of the director-general for the necessary intervention. The employee was also charged for late arrival at work and failure to comply with the department’s legal requirements. Additionally, the official was also charged for unauthorised absence.

Tlhakudi added: “If indeed there was maladministration as he alleges, how come the department during my time as the Accounting Officer, assisted by these officials he is now harassing, enjoyed unqualified audits and met its predetermined objectives?

“In the two years since I departed and the officials were removed from their roles the department has had qualified audits and barely met half of its predetermined objectives. An interview with the officials will support this fact.”

He called on the PSC to investigate and stop this “wanton abuse of power” by Gordhan and acting director general Jacky Molisane.

Tlhakudi added that one of the officials that Gordhan had “terrorised” had suffered a stroke.

“I beg you to treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves. I am further aware that Minister Gordhan has been found wanting in your assessments of the Department of Public Enterprises, without any repercussions despite your call for action in the past. The public service system's inability to act against this minister cannot be allowed to continue anymore, at some point this impunity must stop,” he said.

PSC spokesperson, Humphrey Ramafoko confirmed that the commission had received a complaint and would follow the internal processes of handling complaints.

“The outcome of the assessment is that the Executive Authorities fall outside the mandate of the PSC. Section 4(3) of the Executive Members’ Ethics Act, 1998, mandates the Public Protector (PP) to investigate an alleged breach of the code of ethics on receipt of a complaint against a Cabinet member. In this case, Minister Gordhan.

“As a result, the complainant will be advised to approach the Public Protector in so far as allegations against Minister Gordhan are concerned. The PSC will in the meantime refer the complaint to the Public Protector for consideration,” said Ramafoko.

In a letter issued to Tlhakudi, PSC deputy director general for integrity and anti-corruption Matome Malatsi confirmed that the allegations levelled against Gordhan would referred to the Office of the Public Protector in terms of section 6(4) of the Public Protector Act, 1994 for further handling.

Malatsi added that PSC would conduct an investigation into the allegations of arbitrary termination of employment of officials. He said this would be in line with the PSC’s process of handling complaints lodged.

Tlhakudi’s fight with Gordhan began after he blew the whistle on the aborted sale agreement between SAA and the Takatso Consortium. He also highlighted the working conditions in the Public Enterprises department with the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises, when he appeared before Parliament regarding his allegations of corruption against Gordhan in 2023.

He told the committee that the careers and lives of the officials in the department deemed to be aligned with him had been placed at risk. Tlhakudi said this had led to arbitrary termination of employment through dubious processes of several officials, their illegal surveillance and harassment.

A number of officials who spoke with the Sunday Independent echoed Tlhakudi’s sentiments, adding that they had been intimidated through disciplinary hearings by officials in the HR department.

They alleged that the department had become a toxic environment since Gordhan was appointed a Minister.

They said Gordhan did not want to be challenged and preferred to work with those who agreed with him on everything.

One official said there were employees who had attended disciplinary hearings this week. He said the targeted persons were those who were promoted during Tlhakudi’s tenure.

The official added that the department was also instructed to move employees around in the past two years and now some of them had been moved back to their positions so that it did not look suspicious.

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