Govt pays out millions in golden handshakes

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and its entities have paid over R6-million in golden handshakes since the 2008/09 financial year, while entities under finance, social development and transport ministers have managed to fork out almost R50-million to make employees go away.

In a reply to a Parliamentary question sent on Monday, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana admitted that his department and the entities that report to him have paid over R6-million in golden handshakes. The highest amount was paid to former department director general Langa Zita, who was suspended in 2012 before receiving a payout totalling over R1.6-million. Another former director general, Njabulo Nduli, was paid R1.1-million.

Entity Onderstepoort Biological Products paid just over R1.1-million to Dr Mabhelandile Dyasi after a “breakdown of the employment relationship”.

The Police Ministry also admitted on Monday that it had spent almost R30-million on termination of contracts since 2009, with payouts ranging from R4-million to just over R1-million for almost 20 employees.

In most government entities, suspension over issues such as dereliction of duty, breakdown in employee and employer relations and misconduct leads to millions in payouts, a fact which has been brought to the forefront through a range of written questions by Democratic Alliance MPs over the past month.

While the National Treasury has not paid out any employee contracts, its entities, including South African Airways and the Public Investment Corporation, have paid out almost R21-million since 2008. The South African Revenue Services paid out more than R4-million, with details protected by confidentiality agreements. The biggest payout was made in a separation agreement with former South African Airways CEO Khaya Ngqula in the 2008/09 financial year. He received more than R9-million.

Transport Department entities have also paid out millions to staff for misconduct, poor performance and termination of contracts.

In a reply to Parliament, the department said Passenger Rail South Africa has paid out more than R16-million to various employees from 2008 to the 2014/15 financial year, for breakdown of trust. A payout of more than R7-million was made to its Group Executive Legal Mateboga Nkoenyane over operational restructuring and a mutual consent package. 

The Ports Regulator made one payment to a former employee for a termination of contract before the end of the employee’s employment contract in the 2011/2012 financial year.

“The payment was for R 2 051 107.92 to the former company secretary. The reason for the payment was retirement due to ill health; this payment was made as per the approved conditions of service of the Ports Regulator which stipulates that if the employee retires due to death/ill-health, 3 times the annual salary will be paid to the employee or his/her deceased estate. The medical doctors (employee’s personal doctor and the doctor appointed by the Ports Regulator) were consulted and examined the employee in order to give reports/results which recommended that the former employee be medically boarded since he was not fit to work any more.The matter was duly considered by the board and approved before payment was made,” said the department in its reply.

After rumours of possible payouts for SARS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay and Head of Strategic Planning Peter Richer emerged in May this year, commentators said the country was in danger of becoming a golden handshake republic.

DA MP and chairperson of the DA’s Federal Executive James Selfe said it was outrageous that government paid for their mistakes using tax payers’ money.

“Frequently appointments are made for political reasons, and then changed when new ministers come in. And instead of following proper process, they resort to paying people out. It is really deplorable. And some, like the National Director of Public Prosecutions, are pushed out even if they are good at their job.”

Selfe said the party could not challenge the golden handshakes on their own, but they needed to be made public.

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