IEC and spin doc­tor in spat over R900 000

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

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?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word IEC and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

Terry Tse­lane

Vic­tor Dlamini

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