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Government ministers and employees affiliated to the ANC and its alliance partner, Cosatu, are being taken out of their government positions to help with the party’s election campaign, while they are still on the government payroll.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told the Mail & Guardian that all ANC members “deployed to government” are expected to campaign in the forthcoming election, even those with full-time government jobs.

The M&G is in possession of an SMS sent by Nehawu provincial secretary Suraya Jawoodeen to Western Cape premier Lynne Brown requesting that three shop stewards employed by the provincial government get time off to campaign for the ANC.

In the message Jawodeen says she sent a letter to three provincial ministers asking for the release of three shop stewards to “report back on chamber issues and wage demands for 2009”. She admits, however, “our main aim is 2 use them 4 mobilisatn 4 d anc [sic]”.

She continues: “Cmd [comrade] premier — we will b asking 4 f/t [full-time] release or flexi-time 4 2 more cmds only.
We think d other volunteers can b accommodated differently [sic].”

Asked about the message Jawoodeen said “our correspondence with the employer has been violated” and refused to comment further.

Nehawu is the biggest public service union, with more than 200 000 members.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said it is up to federation affiliates to decide how and when their members should campaign.

“But it is general policy that Cosatu members and officials should help with the election campaign.”

Brown said she had granted permission for the shop stewards to get time off—but only for pay talks.

“I don’t really want to comment ... but I did receive the SMS. Workers must obviously be released for wage negotiations and that’s all they can be released for. People can’t be released from work to do campaigning. I will be speaking about this issue in the legislature and deal with it there,” she said.

According to the ANC’s official programme, Gauteng housing minister Nomvula Mokonyane will spend most of her time until the election in the Western Cape, where she is deployed as the convener of the ANC’s provincial election team.

Mokonyane was appointed to this position in December. This week she spent at least two working days on door-to-door campaigning in Cape Town.

Conveners in other provinces include Deputy Safety and Security Minister Susan Shabangu and Deputy Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom.

Responding, Mantashe said: “Theymust campaign. They are political deployees, including ministers. How can they expect to be returned to Cabinet and not do any election work?”

He said national executive committee members are deployed in provinces where they are expected to campaign, even at a cost to their government work. The ANC decided to deploy the national leaders to provinces other than their home regions.

“Are you expecting MECs and ministers not to do political work? Director generals are in charge of administration [in state departments]; ministers are politicians. This is the system in Britain and Canada and all over the world.”

Asked if the government officials do not have a responsibility to the citizens who pay their salaries, Mantashe said they are “paid as political deployees”.

“The work they do is political and now they are deployed to do political work in a different place.”

Opposition parties recently lambasted Gauteng education minister Angie Motshekga for failing to attend an education council meeting, instead attending the Supreme Court of Appeal to hear the judgement on ANC president Jacob Zuma.

Parliament will stand down on February 13 to allow MPs to join their respective parties’ election campaigns.

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