Will Mokonyane wrecking ball destroy SABC‚ asks Scopa chairman?

27 February 2018 - 12:50 By Bobby Jordan
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
Image: Waldo Swiegers. (C) Sunday Times.

Former Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane should not have been reappointed to the cabinet due to the mess she made in her previous post.

That’s the view of Themba Godi‚ chairman of parliament’s standing committee on public accounts‚ who on Tuesday condemned Mokonyane’s role in the implosion of the Water and Sanitation Department.

He also questioned whether the SABC could be plunged back into crisis with Mokonyane at the helm in her new post as Communications Minister.

Godi‚ leader of the African People's Convention‚ was addressing Water and Sanitation officials at a Scopa meeting convened to address financial irregularities related to various large water infrastructure projects.

“I found it very unfortunate that the announcement yesterday [Ramaphosa’s cabinet reshuffle] happened last night and not tonight‚ because your political principal Mokonyane ... did not deserve reappointment‚” Godi said.

He said Water and Sanitation had ceased to function as a normal department‚ comparing its recent problems with the implosion of other departments such as home affairs and public works.

Godi questioned what impact Mokonyane would have in her new job. “The SABC is slowly emerging from a crisis. Is it going to be plunged into a crisis again? I think these are fair questions to be asked‚” he said.

“I think what has come out today [about spending irregularities] is actually a slap on what was announced yesterday. That department [Water and Sanitation] has effectively been destroyed‚” said Godi‚ who then dismissed department officials from Scopa until further notice.

The committee has resolved to institute a formal inquiry into the department’s affairs with the portfolio committee on water and sanitation.

Scopa members also called for criminal charges to be laid against department officials found guilty of wrongdoing. In particular‚ they questioned massive cost overruns linked to specific infrastructure projects‚ including the installation of boreholes in Giyani which cost as much as R2.4-million each. Some committee members pointed out that a borehole could cost as little as R30 000 to install.

The committee also wants the department to explain how it came to receive a R2.9-billion overdraft from the Reserve Bank.

Godi said the department’s dysfunction was particularly troubling in the context of the drought. “It is our people on the ground who will be hit hard. We live in a water-stressed country where provision of water has to be viewed as a very strategic process. When people don't have water then what?” said Godi.

He also accused Mokonyane of telling “shameless lies” when she appeared before the committee last year. “I think we don’t have a water and sanitation department – that is the long and short of it.

“The painful thing for me is we were down this road with home affairs when it collapsed‚ we were down this road with public works when it collapsed completely. And here we are with water affairs‚” Godi said.