Trade official quits despite vindication

A key regulatory official in the trade and industry department quit two days after the Mail & Guardian queried allegations of poor oversight and lacklustre leadership against her and the regulator’s chief executive, Moses Moeletsi.

The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) oversees the administration of technical regulations, including enforceable standards that ensure the protection of the environment and health and safety.

Chairperson Savannah Maziya’s resignation came despite an investigation by Gobodo Incorporated that cleared both Maziya and Moeletsi of wrongdoing.

This followed serious allegations raised by regulator staff members who are affiliated to the Cosatu union Nehawu.

The exact circumstances surrounding Maziya’s resignation remain unclear.

Questions were sent to the department more than two weeks ago, yet it had not responded by the time the M&G went to print this week.

However, it is understood that Maziya handed her letter of resignation to Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies on March 9, two days after the M&G emailed questions to her about the union’s allegations.

This week Maziya said her resignation had nothing to do with the allegations levelled against her. She said she had approached Davies last December to inform him of her intention to step down so that she could devote all her attention to her business dealings.

It was agreed that she would see her position through until the end of the current financial year, namely the end of this month, she said.

Correspondence seen by the M&G shows that the department was aware of Nehawu’s unhappiness, with Davies writing on December 2 last year: “I wish to advise that the matter has been referred to the [regulator’s] board for investigation and the DTI will also engage the board on the issues raised in the memorandum.”

Dated November 4, the nine-page memorandum highlights a number of issues, with governance being the main area of concern.

Nehawu claims “a clear lack of political will, incompetence, cluelessness and lack of vision has been demonstrated of the highest order”.

Another issue raised in the correspondence is the alleged mismanagement of funds. Mentioned under this item is an amount of R40-million handed to the regulator by the department “which was announced by the CEO — No further details or records seem to prove the latter; this amount does not even appear on the financial statements”.

The Nehawu memorandum also refers to questionable appointments, restructuring, suspensions, dismissals and demotions spearheaded by chief executive Moeletsi. It also accuses the board of failing to deal with problems brought to its attention.

Another document seen by the M&G, sent to the board itself and written on behalf of “concerned NRCS staff members”, singles out Maziya and accuses her of being Moeletsi’s enabler.

The M&G understands that the board met two Saturdays ago to discuss staff issues and to prepare responses to the M&G‘s queries.

Responding to questions sent to the NRCS chief executive and chairperson of the board, the regulator’s communications manager, Mirriam Moswaane, said the board had commissioned Gobodo Incorporated to investigate staff complaints and Moeletsi had been cleared of the misconduct he had been accused of.

Moswaane said the board had agreed to study a submission received from Nehawu on February 28 calling for Moeletsi’s sacking and further engagements with the union.

Moswaane denied suggestions that Maziya was Moeletsi’s enabler, as “the board operates with independence and integrity focusing on strategic issues — confronting the [regulator]. The investigation by Gobodo concluded that the board acted impartially and with integrity in dealing with the matter.

“The board is committed to address any legitimate concerns and issues falling within its mandate,” said Moswaane, adding that it had been evaluated by the Institute of Directors, which “found it to be strong, responsible and able to discharge its fiduciary duties”.

She confirmed Maziya’s resignation but could not provide reasons for it.

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, supported by M&G Media and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa, produced this story. All views are the centre’s.www.amabhungane.co.za.

Nelly Shamase

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