Skeletons tumble from Supra Mahumapelo's closet

Former North West officials reveal dubious contract moves

19 August 2018 - 00:02 By BONGANI FUZILE
Former North West province employees reveal how former premier Supra Mahumapelo forced them out of their jobs.
Former North West province employees reveal how former premier Supra Mahumapelo forced them out of their jobs.
Image: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Mduduzi Ndzingi

Fresh accusations have been levelled at former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo by eight senior provincial officials who say they were forced out of their jobs after highlighting potentially dodgy deals.

At least two of the officials, both former heads of department (HODs), say they are now unemployed and struggling to make ends meet.

The eight officials told the Sunday Times this week they had been "targeted" because Mahumapelo wanted potentially lucrative projects - worth well over R6-billion - in their departments to be controlled by his office.

Several HODs among the eight were removed in the months after Mahumapelo took over from Thandi Modise as premier in 2014. At least four claim they were forced to take packages, exiting their posts prematurely.

The former HODs are Matshidiso Mogale (social development), Desiree Tlhoaele (sport, arts and culture), Tseko Nell (economic development), Johnny Motlogelwa (local government), Bailey Mahlakoleng (safety and transport), Thapelo Makhetha (public works) and Faith Mashimbye, who was HOD of institutional development in the premier's office.

The eighth official is the former chief audit executive at the Matlosana municipality, Mpho Seero, who said he got the boot after raising concerns that some politicians were buying fuel for their personal vehicles on the municipality account.

Seero said he had reported this to Mahumapelo, who sent an administrator. Instead of investigating the alleged graft, this official fired him for allegedly leaking information to the media.

Seero said he had "exhausted all avenues. I've been to the public protector, Luthuli House knows about my case, the current provincial government . is also aware."

Four of the HODs told Sunday Times this week they had been forced out in a "planned witch-hunt" because they had been employed by Modise, who did not see eye-to-eye with Mahumapelo politically.

They claim Mahumapelo wanted his people controlling key projects including:

• A bus procurement contract worth R1-billion;

• A five-year school transport contract worth R3-billion;

• A multibillion-rand contract to refurbish Mahikeng airport;

• A R300-million contract in the premier's office to assist departments with IT projects and training; and

• Public works contracts worth R2-billion for the refurbishment of state buildings.

In the case of the pupil transport contract, the Sunday Times has seen a January 2016 letter to Mahlakoleng in which provincial director-general Lydia Sebego tells him to surrender the tender process to the office of the premier.

"My principal [Mahumapelo] informed me that the instruction as given is the total surrender of the whole process regarding Learner Transport to Office of the Premier," the letter reads.

"You are therefore required to submit the required files and status report on 25 January 2016."

Mahlakoleng said he had been charged with refusing to comply with the order. He claimed that although he won his case, he took a package because he could no longer work with Mahumapelo and Sebego.

After he left the department, the tender was moved. "A person who was working in Mahumapelo's office was made the head of it . the tender was awarded to people known to them," he said.

Nell told the Sunday Times his "sin" had been to refuse to shake hands with Salim Essa, a key executive in the Gupta network, at a breakfast event in Mahikeng in 2015.

"I would not bow to people who wanted to loot my department," Nell said.

"After Modise left, Mahumapelo centralised all authority to hire government service providers as well as controlling the provincial budget. Mahumapelo took away delegation of accounting officers as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act."

Asked why they were speaking out now, Nell said he had taken up the matter up with then-president Jacob Zuma. "Zuma is a friend I met in exile. He said I must write everything down and he will take it to Supra, but that never happened."

He said he was given a letter of termination and was told he had not performed, despite no performance assessment having been done. He initially challenged the termination, but decided to leave because of the cost of legal action.

He said he is now unemployed. "Today I am begging for finances and I don't have money to help my last daughter to finish matric. I am calling for any job, even a messenger job . This is done to me by Mahumapelo."

One of the other HODs, who did not want to be identified, said he spoke now because he was desperate: "I am sitting at home ... searching for a job, living on handouts from friends."

Mahumapelo, who was forced to quit in May after widespread protests, did not respond to requests for comment.