Sunday, July 18, 2010

South Africa - Minister appoints acting Director General prior to replacement in dispute

[business day] A STANDOFF between Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda and his director-general, Mamodupi Mohlala, took a new twist yesterday when Gen Nyanda appointed a new acting chief, while denying reports the incumbent would be suspended.

The minister and Ms Mohlala have fallen out since he changed her responsibilities and scaled back her powers in respect of tenders, a move sources close to the matter said would have benefited people close to the minister.

The dispute between Ms Mohlala and Gen Nyanda threatens to paralyse the department, which has the task of overseeing key projects such as SA’s migration to digital broadcasting.

Gen Nyanda’s spokesman, Tiyani Rikhotso, said Ms Mohlala’s deputy, Harold Wesso, was appointed on Wednesday to act in her post because Ms Mohlala was off sick.

He denied Ms Mohlala was to be suspended, in spite of several industry sources understanding this to be the case yesterday.

It is not clear when she will resume her duties as her future at the department is uncertain.

Tensions between Gen Nyanda and Ms Mohlala became public this week and it was widely expected that Ms Mohlala would be removed from her post.

This is the first time an acting director-general has been appointed in Ms Mohlala’s absence.

Departmental sources said this was because she had always delegated tasks so as to block the appointment of an acting director- general. She denied this last night.

Mr Rikhotso yesterday described claims of a clash over tenders as “false, spurious and malicious”.

“The minister exercises political oversight over the department and he gives policy direction in line with his statutory and constitutional mandate ... he respects the legal prescripts defining the scope, nature and extent of his responsibilities.”

This week Ms Mohlala said removing the administration of tenders from her office would violate the Public Finance Management Act.

Mr Rikhotso said the minister was not involved in issuing or adjudicating tenders.

“The minister’s conscience is clear. He has acted with utmost integrity. No company associated with him has done business with the department,” he said.

Business Day has reliably learnt that the plan to suspend Ms Mohlala had been halted but it was unlikely that she would continue with her duties.

No conflict, says Nyanda as official goes off ‘sick’

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