Minister Hatchet - Minister accused of purging her staff
AGRICULTURE Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has been accused of purging staff members in the ministry and irregularly replacing them with her trusted confidantes.
One of her protectors and close confidante Olga MacZali-Ockhuis has been promoted to a middle management position as administrative secretary in the ministry, with her salary package leaping from level six where she was earning between R108000 and R140000 per annum to level 11 at over R400000.
MacZali-Ockhuis's husband, who was with the state's VIP protection unit, has been appointed as one of Joemat-Pettersson's bodyguards.
She is also said to have attempted to irregularly promote her chief of staff to a deputy director-general position in the department, but was warned by the human resources division such a move would be illegal.
Departmental insiders claimed Joemat-Pettersson had lost control and was paranoid. But the minister has hit back, telling Sunday World that she had taken action, including suspending and getting rid of certain people in her attempts to expose corruption in the department and ministry.
She said she was now receiving death threats from disgruntled staff who are trying to stop her from exposing corruption.
"I have received death threats and the same individuals who work in the ministry say I will be in prison if I fire people. Those threats will not stop me and I will not be intimidated by the threats."
Joemat-Petterson says her security was being stepped up following the threats.
She also accuses some departmental and ministerial staff members of industrial espionage, saying they are being paid millions by companies to compromise sensitive government information.
"I am determined to root out corruption in the ministry and in the department. I will not tolerate corruption and whatever attempts to discredit me will not stop me from rooting out corruption."
Joemat-Pettersson's director-general Langa Zitha, with whom she had a frosty relationship, was suspended in June without reasons being given.
She has now allegedly forced out a number of senior staff, including adviser Rams Mabote; dismissed two other administrative staff members in the ministry; and has been accused by acting director-general Sipho Ntombela, who complained to her current chief of staff Burton Joseph about the minister's interference in the running of the department.
Mabote came in as communications consultant shortly after Joemat-Pettersson became minister.
He was later made communications adviser. Those in the know say he was forced to resign after the minister cut off all communications with him and had isolated him from departmental activities.
Mabote confirms that he has resigned and was suing the minister for constructive dismissal.
"I feel very aggrieved about how (the minister) has dealt with me after two years where I not only served her diligently and loyally but where in other instances I took bullets for her against her adversaries," he says.
But the minister hit back against the allegations.
"Our investigations are quite advanced with The Hawks. We have information of individuals being paid by companies to supply them with information. We have evidence of individuals who are being paid to discredit me. The investigation will not be stopped, it will continue no matter who is disgruntled."
Joemat-Pettersson also defends her appointments , including that of her former bodyguard, MacZali-Ockhuis.
"The application goes through a stringent process of verification of results and the vetting of an individual. You cannot appoint anyone if their academic results aren't verified and person hasn't been vetted for a particular level of security clearance," she says.