/ 28 September 2018

Teflon ‘convict’ lands another job

Melusi Motha denies ever being arrested
Melusi Motha denies ever being arrested, let alone spending time in prison. He claims that he is being targeted because of his political career. (David Harrison/M&G)

Despite 18 months in prison for fraud and forgery, one man was able to move from jail into a job in a Limpopo municipality. And — amid further corruption allegations — he was then able to move to a job at a parastatal, the Northwest Transport Investments (NTI), two months ago.

Melusi Motha is employed in the public service as an industrial labour relations manager at NTI, the state company that provides buses in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng. But his appointment has raised eyebrows because of claims that he was arrested for fraud and forgery in 2004 while working as a public prosecutor in Middelburg, convicted and spent time in jail.

But Motha denies ever being arrested, let alone spending time in prison. He claims that he is being targeted because of his political career.

The chief executive officer of NTI, Bukeka Mahlutshana, said the company had conducted due diligence on Motha before appointing him. She produced a police clearance certificate, which states that Motha has never been convicted of a crime.

“The checks conducted by the National Validation Services and submitted to us …are negative and the criminal check results from the South African Police Service confirms that no convictions have been recorded for any crime against Mr Motha,” said Mahlutshana.

A police document dated 2015, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, attests to an investigation into “perceived fraud, perjury and defeating the ends of justice by Jacob Melusi Motha”.

“Your request was investigated by this officer and it was found that indeed Jacob Melusi Motha was convicted and sentenced to five years and was given parole,” reads the document.“Both the case dockets and the charge sheets are nowhere to be found in Middelburg.”

Tshidi Mapole, spokesperson for the correctional services department in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West region, confirmed that there was an offender at the Witbank Correctional Centre by the name of Jacob Melusi Motha who was sentenced to five years in November 2004.

READ MORE: State workers must disclose crimes

“However, we cannot confirm if the person in question and the one who reflects on our system are the same person since the date of birth registered with our centre does not match that of the ID number supplied on your media enquiry below. But it sometimes occurs that some offenders provide a false identity number when they get incarcerated,” Mapole said.

Motha’s criminal record was flagged by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) when Motha was appointed at NTI in August this year.

Sandy Motlhakeng,the local chairperson of Satawu, said it is very strange that Motha was shortlisted because “it is public knowledge that Motha has a criminal record.”

But Motha denies ever being arrested or spending time in any prison “here or abroad.”

He claims that, because of his political career, there are people he grew up with in Sekhukhune who had an axe to grind with him.

“You are talking to me about faceless people who have given you this information,” Motha said.

“I will call them and fix this. I am a politician in my own right and there are people who have a score to settle with me and they are making this story up.”

But Motha’s former employer, the Fetakgomo Tubatse municipality in Limpopo, has confirmed that he was an employee in 2006 when he was appealing his sentence.

The municipality’s spokesperson, Thabiso Mokoena, said Motha lost his appeal and had to leave the municipality to serve his sentence. He was released by the parole board on good behaviour.

The municipality then rehired him in a new position after he was released. But then, in 2015, Motha was charged with 24 counts of gross negligence, corruption and misrepresentation, leading to his subsequent resignation.

According to documents the M&G has seen, Motha was charged with failing to disclose that he had been criminally charged in 2006 and for employing an official with a criminal record.

“You committed an act of misconduct in that on or about 18 July 2014, while applying for a position of director corporate services with the Greater Tubatse municipality, you were dishonest in not disclosing information about your criminal case,” reads the charge sheet.

His former colleague, Marothi Makwela, wrote an affidavit that would have been presented at Motha’s disciplinary hearing. It stated that he had visited Motha in jail on two occasions.

“During the time of Mr Melusi Jacob Motha’s incarceration, I was instructed to assist him with writing [a] letter to the parole board on behalf of the municipal manager …In one of the letters I sent to the parole board on his behalf I stated vehemently that Mr MJ Motha will be re-employed by the Greater Tubatse municipality should he be released on parole,” reads the affidavit.

Makwela also stated that Motha was given a position in the municipality even though he had a criminal record because of his close relationship with certain individuals at the time. When the administration of the municipality changed, Motha was charged for failing to disclose his criminal record.

Motha denies this and instead says that he resigned in December 2015, before his disciplinary hearing could start,and that the municipality accepted his letter.

“It was an amicable separation. I knew they were after me and they knew they had no case. So they let me resign,” he said.

Police spokesperson, Vish Naidoo was approached for comment but had not responded by the time the M&G at the time of publishing.