Mr ME Nchabeleng


Mr VC Xaba

Chairpersons of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence
Parliament of the Republic of South Africa
PO Box 15
Cape Town

Dear Honourable Nchabeleng and Honourable Xaba

Suspect precautionary suspension of four senior Department of Military Veterans’ managers: allegations of impropriety against newly appointed Director General Mpolweni

1. I write to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence to request its intervention into, and investigation of, a matter which could have large financial (and other) implications for the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) in terms of allegations of possible corruption and its cover-up by that department’s recently appointed Director General, Ms Irene Mpolweni.

2. In August 2021, four senior managers of the DMV were placed on precautionary suspension, allegedly because of “…irregular expenditure amounting to R119 002 000, fruitless and wasteful expenditure to the tune of R5 084 000” in the 2019/2020 financial year according to a press statement issued by the DMV.

3. Those managers are [names removed to protect their identities, but were supplied to the Committee]. All of who feel ambushed and blind-sided by their director general’s words and actions after they had, to the best of their knowledge and ability had done their work as required, and even more.

4. I have been reliably informed that the accusation, as captured in paragraph 2, is however not the sole charge against all four of the suspended officials. There are already inconsistencies in the DMV’s handling of the matter, just measuring it against their reporting to the public. It is disingenuous to report the precautionary suspension and then omit or hide some of the pertinent information (i.e. the run-up to, and the real reasons for, the suspension) from the public.

5. As I understand it, when Ms Mpolweni was appointed in early June 2021, she had demanded that a pilot project, to train and empower military veterans and their dependents in road maintenance, be urgently rolled out to all nine provinces in the current financial year; thus, elevating it to a flagship project of sorts. This decision also appears to have been made at the expense of the existing sewing flagship project, which gives the impression that the proverbial new broom is sweeping everything clean and whether it is good or bad seems irrelevant.

6. The motivation or rationale for this decision is not quite clear as it seems that Ms Mpolweni prefers to rely on verbal communication and/or instructions, which not only discounts governmental style and departmental protocols, but causes problems in the long run as there are no tangible records of such decisions and/or instructions, as well as their exact phrasing and intent, which gives wriggle room for misunderstanding and deniability. Furthermore, verbal instructions are almost tantamount to political directives, something which should have no place in a departmental official/technocrat’s vocabulary.

7. From what I have been told, the aforementioned officials did their homework, and it was determined through implementation models that the costs for the road maintenance programme varied from R31 million to R73 million. Ms Mpolweni had apparently been consistently advised that, in terms of the allocated departmental budget for the current financial year, there were simply not enough funds available to conduct the nationwide roll-out of the road maintenance programme.

8. Ms Mpolweni had allegedly instructed that a virement of R31 million should be made from the Education Support Programme 2. Ms Mpolweni had however apparently also been informed that there was an 8% ceiling on virements, as imposed by National Treasury, and that such decisions took time to implement.

9. One would expect a person in the position of director general to not only possess this relevant knowledge, but a good director general should also respect and listen to the opinions of the technocrats when reminded of the rules and regulations. Strangely enough, from the information at my disposal, it seems as if Ms Mpolweni instead had perceived such advice from her advisors as resistance and/or insubordination.

10. After doing extensive recalibrations, the CFO had apparently declared that R70,5 million could possibly be freed up from the budget for skills and empowerment, but because of the 8% ceiling, National Treasury had to be involved. As director general, Ms Mpolweni would have had to sign the required transversal contract. As far as I am aware, this application to Treasury has not yet been submitted as of early August 2021 as Ms Mpolweni had not yet approved it.

11. When Ms Mpolweni had seemingly done her own sums, she had arrived at a total of R101 million for the same programme. Where the ±R30 million padding had come from, or what she had intended it for can only be guessed at, but that surely is a big difference from the total the technocrats arrived at.

12. Another interesting feature of Ms Mpolweni’s distribution model had been that apparently North West should be allocated the lion’s share of the programme’s budget for an unknown reason, as per the below division, which, as far as I know, had not been accompanied by any rationalisation:

13. The next two dilemmas which officials had to contend with are 1) that the allocations had already been verbally communicated to provincial coordinators, even though the funds had not even been secured yet and that 2) contractors had somehow gotten wind of the pending “opportunities” and had started contacting (i.e. harassing) the provincial coordinators and other officials.

14. Seemingly the Director General perceived the aforementioned four senior managers as somehow impeding “her” R101 million flagship project. As soon as the technocrats had done their work and had explained the rules and the facts, she somehow had interpreted it as opposition and/or insubordination. This is borne out by her allegedly blowing hot-and-cold with her senior staff i.e. one minute singing their praises and then blind-siding them with precautionary suspensions that she allegedly under false pretences linked to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. It is therefore not too far-fetched to argue that the charges levelled against them have been trumped up to remove any obstacles in her way and that of the implementation of a crowning moment in her career i.e. the road maintenance flagship programme, which is not even her brain-child.

15. Now that the four officials are effectively out of the way, Ms Mpolweni has unfettered access to public resources, or at least might have more compliant officials at her disposal, and it is alleged that money has already left government coffers as the checks and balances have seemingly been quite deviously and deliberately removed by a new director general, two months (at the time of their suspension) into her new job.

16. To lend credence to the argument of Ms Mpolweni’s seeming affinity for dubious acts, apparent poor interpersonal skills and erratic leadership style, she is no stranger to controversy e.g.:

16.1. In March 2012 a forensic investigation implicated Ms Mpolweni and five of her former colleagues in the North West’s Department of Sport, Arts and Culture in a R60 million splurge on “…tickets, accommodation, catering and procurement of T-shirts” during the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup. As far as I can gather Ms Mpolweni faced no consequences as she had by the time of the audit left that provincial department.

16.2. In February 2019 former Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle had placed Ms Mpolweni on precautionary suspension after the so-called Mthatha Airport Debacle.

16.3. Although Ms Mpolweni’s services were retained during Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s term, her and Eastern Cape Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe’s relationship, had deteriorated to a point where she would step down a month early at the end of October 2019. MEC Tikana-Gxothiwe seemingly essentially accused Ms Mpolweni of ignoring and undermining her office.

17. My question is this, considering the information contained in paragraph 16, does the DMV not properly screen and vet the candidates for the post of director general before appointing them? And if so, what is their rationalisation and/or justification for appointing a person who had left two provincial government departments under a dark cloud?

18. From this tiny bit of research into her publicly known history and what has been relayed to me, it seems as if Ms Mpolweni might not be ready or even capable of filling the shoes of a director general, either as a departmental leader, or a technocrat functioning at national level.

19. She seems to be hell bent on, or at least in these four officials’ cases and from the experiences in the Eastern Cape, to create a toxic work environment. When the rules and regulations prevented her from willy-nilly implementing her master scheme, the poor officials who are tasked to enforce the rules, had to bear the brunt of her ire. This even though she appears to be responsible for some of the major steps that were missed for which she now blames them.

20. As far as I am aware, all four of the officials are keen to clear their names, restore their reputations, and are willing to fully submit to an investigation if it is done in a just manner by an impartial structure with no hidden agenda.

21. I herewith request that the Joint Standing Committee on Defence investigate the matter and it, amongst others: 1) listen to the testimony of the four officials, 2) ask the Director General to explain herself, 3) that al plans to spend money on the road maintenance programme be frozen and that 4) all appointments of service providers and pay-outs be held in abeyance until an investigation is done and that the Committee has satisfied itself that nothing untoward has and is occurring.

22. I sincerely hope to hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement

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