Transport Minister Blade Nzimande has defended his decision to appoint his close ally and former chief of staff in the higher education department, Nqabekaya Nqandela, as administrator and accounting officer for the North West department of community safety and transport management as part of the Section 100 intervention.
Section 100 of the Constitution outlines rules for the national government when intervening where provinces have failed to deliver on their constitutional obligations.
In a letter to Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene signed on September 20, Nzimande said that though he understood the finance minister’s reservations, he was confident Nqandela was the right man for the job.
“Whilst I have understanding for your concerns regarding the withdrawal of Mr Mathabatha Mokonyama, as Administrator and Accounting Officer for the North West Department of Community Safety and Transport Management for the duration of the Section 100 (1) (b) intervention, I can assure you of Mr Nqabekaya Nqandela’s ability to fulfil the mandate as per Section 36 (3) of the PFMA.”
In September, the Mail & Guardian reported that Nene had red-flagged a plan by Nzimande to remove seasoned administrator Mathabatha Mokonyama and replace him with Nqandela. In his letter to Nzimande, the finance minister noted with concern that Nzimande intended to remove Mokonyama despite his “wealth of expertise” which had helped to address “inefficiencies within the provincial department”.
Of Mokonyama, Nene said: “Based on his background and experience, he has been able to demonstrate leadership and guidance not only to the transport sector, but he is also assisting other administrators who are new in the process to make informed decisions and how to navigate within the provincial politics.
The reason for Mokonyama’s removal according to Nzimande was that his secondment to the North West province compromised the public transport portfolio which Mokonyama was responsible for. Nzimande also reveals in his letter to Nene that he terminated Mokonyama as the acting director general.
“There has been numerous challenges in the area of public transport which resulted in the decision to terminate his acting appointment as Director-General, in order to enable him to focus and address the challenges in public transport.”
Nzimande further explains that five positions of deputy directors general are currently vacant in his department.
“Mr Mokonyama is technically the only deputy director-general that can assist the department to deliver on its mandate as the other deputy director-general responsible for roads has now been appointed to act as director general.
“Furthermore in most of the branches in the department, the positions of chief directors are also vacant and the continuous absence of Mr Mokonyama will eventually result in the collapse of service delivery,” Nzimande added.