IEC and spin doctor in spat over R900 000
A payment dispute from the last election may come back to haunt the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as it prepares for the highly contested local government elections this year.
Public relations expert Victor Dlamini is demanding R900 000 from the commission for six months of work. He claims he was not paid.
Although the commission has denied Dlamini worked for it at the time he said he did, emails between Dlamini and senior IEC officials show they sought his advice and input on media enquiries and interview requests over the same period.
Dlamini has now turned to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s office, asking it to “compel the IEC to pay me the fees that have been unjustly withheld”, because he says he does not have the money to sue them.
The IEC declined to comment, saying they did not want to discuss Dlamini’s case in the media.
The commission’s spokesperson, Kate Bapela, said: “The electoral commission and Mr Dlamini have for the past two years been engaged in a dispute relating to a contract entered into between the parties in 2013.
“Given the ongoing dispute, it would not be appropriate to respond publicly on this matter.”
Dlamini told City Press what hurt him most was that the IEC approached him seeking his urgent assistance and “now this is the thank you I get”.
In a letter to the Public Protector, Dlamini said he was approached by IEC deputy chairperson Terry Tselane in August 2013, asking if he was interested in assisting the commission with strategic communications consulting services.
“Tselane asked me to meet him at the residence of Sello Chicco Twala in Atholl, Sandton. At this meeting, he impressed upon me the urgency of the situation and the pressure the IEC was facing in dealing with this unusual negative perception so near to the holding of the provincial and national elections in 2014,” he wrote.
“In terms of his requirements, he said that he wanted me to use my skills as a reputation management expert to help restore the image and reputation of the IEC after the report of the Public Protector into the lease of the Riverside IEC offices in Centurion.
“Tselane confided in me that he believed the actions of the then chairperson of the IEC, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, had brought the [commission] into disrepute and he wished to reinforce the readiness of the IEC for the elections, and to distance her problems from the prospects of the IEC to deliver free and fair elections.”
This matter refers to the R320 million office lease agreement involving Tlakula, which Madonsela found to have been irregular.
Tlakula later resigned as pressure from opposition parties mounted.
Meanwhile, Dlamini claims an agreement was reached that he would be paid R150 000 per month. He said that a contract was signed and that it was agreed he would work from October 1 to December 31 2013.
Dlamini said it was agreed in the same contract that parties “may agree to extend it on a month-to-month basis until two weeks after the 2014 national provincial elections”.
He insists he worked for the commission for a full six months after that.
Emails attached to his complaint to the Public Protector appear to show that after his contract expired in December, IEC officials, including deputy chief electoral officer Nomsa Masuku, sought his advice and input.
“They wrote to me, called me and had interactions with me, and I believed as stipulated in our initial contract that this was part of the extension. It is also worth noting that the IEC only gave me an office in February of 2014,” Dlamini wrote.
“If the IEC did not consider the agreement to be in force, why would it allocate me an office on the second floor in close proximity to the commissioners? I am not a lawyer, but the simple fact that Tselane and the IEC continued to use my services during the period in question was a clear indication that the agreement was still in effect.”
However, an August 2014 letter from the IEC lawyers in response to Dlamini’s demand for payment states: “Our client denies that the agreement between the parties was renewed and extended, as alleged.”
Meanwhile, Dlamini said his hope lay with Madonsela’s office because “I do not have money to take the IEC to court”.
“Even if the IEC wanted to argue about the validity of the contract, morally, once it had received my services, it is obliged to pay for them,” he said.
“If, as the IEC now alleges, the contract was not extended, then the IEC would have to explain why it was only too happy to continue using my services.”
Should the IEC cough up?
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