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Lindiwe Sisulu defends appointing former minister as new adviser

26 May 2020 - 20:05 By THABO MOKONE
Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu is standing by her decision to hire former minister Susan Shabangu as her adviser. File photo.
Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu is standing by her decision to hire former minister Susan Shabangu as her adviser. File photo.
Image: Trevor Samson

Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has angrily dismissed the DA's criticism of the appointment of her latest adviser, former minister Susan Shabangu, saying she is more experienced than any DA MP.

Sisulu, along with her director-general Mbulelo Tshangana, was responding to MPs from the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) over investigations into cases of irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditures amounting to billions of rands.

But DA MP Emma Louise Powell wanted Sisulu to explain the rationale behind her decision to appoint Shabangu, a fomer social development minister, as one of the new members of a her ministerial advisory committee on the stabilisation of and efficient functioning of the water sector.

Powell argued that Shabangu was not an expert on water management issues.

The move comes against the backdrop of Sisulu's other controversial appointments to her advisory committee, including another former intelligence chief Mo Shaik.

The appointments have also previously been criticised by insiders within the department, who argued that Sisulu was underutilising technical experts permanently in the employ of water and sanitation while relying on outsiders.

Sisulu, who is also responsible for the human settlements portfolio, has also been previously criticised for appointing former minister Bathabile Dlamini as chairperson of the Social Housing Regulatory Authority interim board.

But Sisulu on Tuesday defended the appointment of Shabangu, who quit parliament last year after failing to make it into President Cyril Ramaphosa's cabinet following the 2019 general election.

Sisulu told MPs that Shabangu was far more experienced in issues of governance than most MPs from the official opposition party.

"Susan Shabangu has more experience, more understanding of politics, more understanding of government than you could ever have. Susan Shabangu has been part of this government from 1994, she became a minister in 1998," she said.

"Before that she was a secretary-general of a trade union. She's a trade union activist by profession, she's a gender activist by profession and she's served this government in various capacities.

"She has the necessary experience and this why I took her.

"The fact that she's not in parliament is very similar to the fact that Helen Zille is not in parliament. We might easily say the same thing about her or any other members of the DA who is not in parliament - that question does not hold. Susan Shabangu has the necessary experience, especially in labour law, and that's why she was brought into the stabilisation team.

"I'm very proud of the work that she's put in."

Sisulu also rejected concerns by EFF MP Veronica Mente about the department's decision to enlist the services of prominent lawyer Terry Motau to conduct a conduct investigations within the water sector.

Motau is better known for his forensic investigative report issued in 2018, The Great Bank Heist, which detailed how the VBS Mutual Bank had been looted by ruthless executives and politically connected individuals.

Mente argued that Motau had previously done unsatisfactory work for the department, but Sisulu would not have any of that.

"What's outstanding about Terry Motau? I am surprised that MPs should ask that. He's a trailblazing [lawyer, with a] very good track record. We will put it on the website and we'll give it to all MPs, so that they know why we chose him. He's had outstanding results and we're expecting that he'll have outstanding results for us as well," she said.