Minister lashes DG’s suspension claims

Minister of Home Affairs Hlengiwe Mkhize has rejected claims that she asked director general Mkuseli Apleni to assist her son Sizwe in settling a legal dispute with the department involving nearly R1-million.

Apleni launched an urgent application in the high court in Pretoria earlier this week after Mkhize announced that she had placed him on “precautionary suspension”.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Thursday, Mkhize also rejected the urgency of Apleni’s case, saying she would appeal it. “In my view it is not an urgent application,” she said.

In the court papers, Apleni says her reasons for suspending him — she charged him with serious misconduct — were irrational. Instead, there may have been other motives underlying his suspension, he says. “Steps will be taken to settle matters that ought not to be settled in the absence of proper counsel from the legal teams involved in such matters,” said Apleni.

These included a claim that involves Mkhize’s son, Apleni said. The minister has written to the department on several occasions requesting that the matter be dealt with outside of legal processes, he said.

But Mkhize denied asking Apleni to help settle her son’s legal battles.

“I read about the issue of a son [in newspapers]. I do not have a son that has a company that does business with the department.

“The manipulation and distortion of facts is sickening. He throws in random company names. I wish those companies can sue him,” Mkhize told the M&G.

She also believed the allegations against her “are malicious and done purposefully by a person who wants to damage my good character”.

In Apleni’s court case, President Jacob Zuma and the minister have been cited in the application as the first and second respondents respectively.

Apleni also argued that the precautionary suspension was “unlawful” because “the minister exercised a power reserved for the president and which has not been delegated to her”.

“The only way in which the minister would have been empowered to suspend me and exercise the power she purported to exercise is if the minister had a proper and lawful delegation from the president. The president has not delegated to the minister the powers entrusted to him,” Apleni said in his affidavit.

Mkhize said ministers have delegated authority to suspend director generals. She said it was odd that a senior government official did not know the difference between a precautionary relief and firing.

“This is standard procedure. There is what is called presidential delegation. It is impractical for him to expect the president to be walking to the departments to raise issues of insubordination. As a senior official I would expect him to know the process,” she said.

Apleni has requested that the matter be heard in October. The minister is yet to file her answering affidavit.

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