Johannesburg - Leadership problems that cause “paralysis” at the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services are set to be independently investigated.
This is according to Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele, whose office on Monday said he is “attending to the ongoing leadership challenges which are negatively impacting the department’s ability to execute its functions timeously”.
In particular, Cwele said he is considering placing the department’s director general Rosey Sekese on “precautionary leave of absence” amid the probe.
Reports have claimed that Sekese is purging the department of those who oppose her.
It emerged last week that the government ministry lost its third deputy director general in five months. Sam Vilakazi resigned after Sekese fired Themba Phiri and Gift Buthelezi. Sekese reportedly sent Buthelezi a notification of his dismissal via SMS.
Subsequently, only two of the ministry’s six departments now have a deputy director general in charge, according to opposition political party the Democratic Alliance (DA).
Vilakazi, Phiri and Buthelezi were all also reportedly facing internal disciplinary hearings regarding a R756m digital migration media tender, which is being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
But question marks also hang over Sekese’s role in this controversial tender, with departmental insiders saying she is using the SIU investigation as a reason to purge those who oppose her.
“Because of the seriousness of the issues under consideration, the minister is considering placing the director general under precautionary leave of absence for the duration of the inquiry,” Cwele said in a statement on Monday.
“This will merely be a precautionary step and is not a punishment, and the director general will be on full pay during the inquiry. The minister has in the circumstances requested the director general to write and submit to him reasons why she should not be placed on precautionary leave of absence. The director general has been granted 72 hours to submit her reasons to the minister,” said Cwele.
Cwele also said he launched the probe after having “received concerns from individuals and managers of the department about the paralysis within the department”.
“The minister approached the Public Service Commission for assistance regarding the role played by senior management, including the director general, in the dysfunction of the department,” a statement from his office read.
The DA has also said that Sekese sent warning letters for poor performance to 80% of senior management service level employees.
“There are also disciplinary hearings being held against eight senior managers and two junior officials on the tender issue, seven of whom are also included in the SIU investigation,” the DA said last week.
Terms of reference
Subsequently, the independent terms of reference are set to include circumstances surrounding disciplinary action taken against Vilakazi, Phiri and Buthelezi and alleged abuse of power.
Other terms of reference include looking at the alleged irregular appointment of two employees to the same post of media liaison officer in the office of the deputy minister, and the department’s performance assessment process.
Turmoil at the department also only comes after it was created last year.
Following the end of the 2014 general elections, President Jacob Zuma split the former Department of Communications in two to create the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services.
The department is tasked with key mandates such as a government broadband roll-out and overseeing state-owned companies such as the South African Post Office, which is currently under administration.