/ 9 November 2022

‘Fraudulent’ Senzo Mchunu appointment faces SIU investigation

Senzo Mchunu 9964
Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will look into the alleged fraudulent appointment of the head of North West social development department, approved by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu.

The requirements for the social development departmental head are that the successful candidate should have a postgraduate degree and at least eight years of managerial experience. The position comes with a salary of R1.5-million a year.

The Mail & Guardian reported two weeks ago that, according to an internal South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) note, Relebohile Emmanuel Mafokane had a matric certificate when he began his five-year term in May last year. 

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago confirmed on Tuesday that the unit had been approached by Aaron Motswana, the chairperson of the North West legislature’s portfolio committee on the premier, finance, cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs, to investigate Mafokane’s alleged fraudulent appointment. 

“The parties are yet to have a formal meeting to discuss the basis of the allegations,” Kganyago added. 

Motswana said he had a conversation with the SIU’s head, Andy Mothibi, who had agreed to assign an investigator from North West to attend to the committee’s request. “Subsequently, advocate Ramashau from the SIU’s North West [office] has already contacted me to say he is available.”

Mafokane’s appointment had to be supported by Mchunu, who was the public service and administration minister at the time, because the national government had placed North West under administration in May 2018, in terms of section 100 of the Constitution, because the provincial government was unable to fulfil its service delivery and financial obligations. 

Moses Mushi, spokesperson for the public service and administration department, disputed that there were irregularities regarding Mafokane’s appointment. 

“The verification of qualifications was done through the South African Qualifications Authority and it was confirmed that Mr Mofokane had three qualifications at NQF levels 4, 7 and 8, which meant that he met the requirements of the post as advertised,” Mushi said, speaking on Mchunu’s behalf. 

Motswana said the committee decided to approach the SIU to remedy this situation. 

“We are not just dealing with an ordinary position, but a position of head of department who is expected to, on a day-to-day basis, take major decisions in terms of service delivery within that particular department of social development.” 

Motswana said Mafokane, as the department’s accounting officer, had powers to commit the department to “serious financial issues”. 

“We must be seen to be acting in terms of the oath that we have taken as members of the [legislature] that, in the event that we have been made aware of certain allegations of impropriety, we can’t be seen to be complicit to the matter.

“So, in the interest of service delivery, clean governance and the North West being one of the provinces performing poorly in terms of infrastructure spending, I felt that the matter needed to get the necessary attention from law enforcement agencies,” Motswana said. 

He stressed that, since March, the portfolio committee had tried to resolve Mafokane’s alleged lack of academic qualifications, with Motswana saying the social development department and Premier Bushy Maape’s office had been “playing cat and mouse games” with members of the legislature. 

In a statement to M&G on Tuesday, Maape’s office said the provincial government had filled five heads of department vacancies over the past year, all of which were done “with concurrence of the minister of public service and administration”. 

The premier’s office added that it had referred the allegations to the public protector’s office for investigation, and called for the public to await the final report. 

“We view the persistent allegations in the media very seriously. We are committed to the professionalisation of the public service through the appointment of suitably qualified people, and the appointment of heads of departments is central to this commitment.”

Motswana said the committee was aware that the public protector’s office was investigating Mafokane’s appointment, “but it does not bar the legislature from acting in the matter, and we are empowered by the Constitution and we are empowered by the powers and privileges in respect of the legislature [to act]”. 

Last week, the legislature refused to process the social development department’s annual performance plan, telling Mafokane and social development MEC Boitumelo Moiloa of members’ “uneasiness” of deliberating on a report compiled by Mafokane, “whose appointment is currently still in question”. 

Motswana said the committee would not be “diligently” exercising its oversight role “by allowing that particular matter just to go through”.

“Part of why we process annual reports is to look at the performance of the department and, in this regard, when you now start digging deeper into the head of department’s [competence], [Mafokane] has not submitted the probation quarterly reports. 

“I’m still yet to receive a performance agreement for this financial year. What is contained is the agreement from May last year, which ended in May this year,” Motswana said. 

“It means that certain aspects of [Mafokane’s] performance would not have been evaluated accordingly, and he would not have been fairly assessed. This would bring in certain issues that are unpalatable that favours were made for [Mafokane] to be appointed.” 

Motswana said there was still time to process the report, and that a qualified chief director in the social development department could be assigned as the head of department in an acting capacity. 

Social development spokesperson Petrus Siko said the department’s annual performance plan had been processed, but that its annual report had not. 

He added that Mafokane had been informed that law enforcement agencies would be approached to investigate his alleged fraudulent appointment. 

“As to whether Mr Mofokane has engaged the portfolio committee on his post school qualifications, the department does not have any proof yet,” Siko said.