It was arguably the biggest demotion in the Jacob Zuma executive: the appointment of Gauteng’s powerful former premier Paul Mashatile as deputy minister of arts and culture.
No matter how hard the spin masters will try to convince otherwise, the booting of Mashatile as top dog of the country’s richest and most powerful province to second in charge of one of the poorest and smallest state departments is embarrassing.
One need not look further than the deployment of other ex-premiers to the influential departments of transport, social development and energy for proof.
This raises the pertinent question whether Mashatile’s appointment was a political solution by the ANC to a corporate governance headache.
Allegations of corruption and mismanagement against Mashatile are plentiful and well publicised. This newspaper has been at the forefront of exposing his dodgy links with companies and individuals benefiting from Gauteng’s fiscus.
In 2007 we revealed the existence of the Alex Mafia — Mashatile’s friends and confidants appointed by him to crucial positions in the provincial government. Some stayed outside government to run the business side of things.
According to recent reports in sister newspapers, it was exactly these dubious relations that made him too risky to re-appoint as premier (raising questions of double standards by the ANC, with regard to newly appointed premiers governing under clouds of suspicion).
What has changed since Mashatile’s appointment as caretaker premier in September last year?
The Johannesburg rumour-mill has it that Luthuli House was recently provided with more damning evidence of Mashatile’s alleged wrongdoing. It is known that national treasury was irked by his establishment of a private equity fund in the province without approval.
A picture is emerging of a man who falsely saw himself as untouchable.
The ANC and Mashatile’s former political head, Mbhazima Shilowa, must accept some of the blame for this. For too long Mashatile was allowed to run amok, spending money on fancy motorsport events and international trips, while the province’s hospitals had no bread or medication.
Not once was he publicly censored or even rapped over the knuckles.
But redeployment is also no answer to the province’s massive corporate governance problems.
Mashatile’s successor, Nomvula Mokonyane, should without hesitation or delay institute forensic investigations into Mashatile’s reign, including all big contracts awarded by the province and the establishment of entities such as the Gauteng Motorsport Company and the Gauteng Fund.
The appointment of Mokonyane and her sacking of big-spending health MEC Brian Hlongwa is a solid start to cleaning up Gauteng. But these political solutions must be followed up with thorough investigation and, if necessary, prosecution if the ANC is really committed to nipping corruption in the bud.