Official suspended for R1,1m grant

Paul Mogotlhe, the North West agriculture official reported in the Mail & Guardian to have authorised a R1,1-million government grant to himself, has been suspended. His boss, provincial agriculture minister Jan Serfontein, is also in the firing line.

The North West legislature has asked the auditor general to investigate Mogotlhe’s claim that he declared the grant and Serfontein approved it.

In a management report in September the auditor general said the department had also awarded contracts worth R2,5-million to Serfontein’s Smokey Mountain Trading and bought chickens worth more than R480 000 from his company, Serfontein Kuikens.

Last week a furious provincial legislature unanimously voted for Mogo­tlhe’s suspension and a probe by the auditor general. DA leader Chris Hattingh tabled the motion after reading the M&G story.

Mogotlhe tried to head off the legislature debate by threatening legal action.

Serfontein told the legislature his department would investigate the claims, but members felt the department could not investigate itself. Hattingh then asked for Serfontein’s suspension.

Only North West Premier Edna Molewa can suspend Serfontein and the pair are understood to be close.

Serfontein said this week that Smokey Mountain Trading was an empowerment company he helped to establish. He said he was a director of the company, but resigned after he was appointed to his current position. He denied that he had a direct interest or shareholding in Serfontein Kuikens, adding that he had never held any directorship or managerial position in the company.

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