Sunday Times

Min­is­ter wants his ‘liar’ DG re­moved

Pub­lic works feud spi­rals as Nx­esi takes his gripe to the top


Pub­lic works min­is­ter Thu­las Nx­esi has asked Pres­i­dent Cyril

Ramaphosa to in­ter­vene in the feud be­tween him and di­rec­tor-gen­eral Sam Vukela, amid warn­ings that keep­ing Vukela in the post could “re­turn the de­part­ment to the days of the Nkandla scan­dal”. Nx­esi wrote to Ramaphosa last month, ask­ing him to “re­de­ploy” Vukela be­cause he was “in­sub­or­di­nate and a liar”.

But Vukela has hit back, say­ing Nx­esi was the one ly­ing to the pres­i­dent as he wanted him out be­cause he had re­fused to hire Nx­esi’s friend.

● Pub­lic works min­is­ter Thu­las Nx­esi wants Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa to re­move the de­part­ment’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Sam Vukela, for al­leged in­sub­or­di­na­tion and ly­ing, amid warn­ings that keep­ing him in the post could “re­turn the de­part­ment to the days of the Nkandla scan­dal”.

In a let­ter to Ramaphosa dated Au­gust 20, Nx­esi says Vukela should be re­de­ployed be­cause he was re­fus­ing to fol­low in­struc­tions, had lied to him about de­part­men­tal af­fairs and had poor knowl­edge “about matters within the de­part­ment”.

Nx­esi said Vukela had de­fied him on a range of is­sues, in­clud­ing the sub­mis­sion of re­ports to par­lia­ment.

“It is there­fore my con­clu­sion that I will not be able to achieve any progress with the same DG and have lost trust in him,” the let­ter reads.

“All his ac­tions demon­strate a con­duct which is de­lib­er­ately aimed at un­der­min­ing my au­thor­ity.”

Ramaphosa’s spokesper­son, Khusela Diko, con­firmed yes­ter­day that the pres­i­dent had re­ceived the let­ter and said he was “ap­ply­ing his mind” to it.

But Vukela hit back this week, say­ing it was Nx­esi who was telling lies.

“The min­is­ter lied to the pres­i­dent in his let­ter. He has pre­con­ceived ideas about me and lacks lead­er­ship,” Vukela said.

“The min­is­ter clearly showed a lack of lead­er­ship. Why didn’t he sit me down and ask me to ex­plain my­self be­fore writ­ing his let­ter loaded with lies to the pres­i­dent?”

The row is the lat­est chap­ter in a lon­grun­ning feud be­tween the two men.

Nx­esi had Vukela fired in 2013 af­ter the then pub­lic pro­tec­tor, Thuli Madon­sela, crit­i­cised his role both in the Nkandla scan­dal and in leases the pub­lic works de­part­ment signed with busi­ness­man Roux Sha­bangu for po­lice of­fice space.

But Vukela was re­in­stated last year af­ter a chal­lenge in the labour bar­gain­ing coun­cil and was ap­pointed DG in Novem­ber by a panel of min­is­ters com­pris­ing Nx­esi’s pre­de­ces­sor Nathi Nh­leko, his deputy Jeremy Cronin, Des van Rooyen and Faith Muthambi.

Shortly af­ter the in­ter­view, Cronin wrote a memo to Nh­leko, who chaired the panel, rais­ing “sev­eral ma­jor con­cerns” about Vukela be­cause he had not been asked to ex­plain his roles in the scan­dals over Nkandla and the po­lice leases.

“Over the past few years the de­part­ment and gov­ern­ment more broadly, fol­low­ing a se­ries of cor­rec­tive mea­sures, have suc­ceeded in mov­ing be­yond the Nkandla mat­ter,” Cronin wrote.

“I am very con­cerned that clum­si­ness on our part at this point may serve to re­open the whole is­sue once more.”

Nh­leko ig­nored Cronin’s con­cerns and went ahead and ap­pointed Vukela.

Vukela said this week Nx­esi was try­ing to get rid of him be­cause he had re­fused to ap­point Fik­ile Hugo, who he de­scribed as a friend of the min­is­ter’s, to a top po­si­tion in the de­part­ment.

Nx­esi even­tu­ally used his pow­ers as min­is­ter to hire Hugo as chief di­rec­tor of stake­holder en­gage­ments. The ap­point­ment is now be­ing probed by the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion fol­low­ing com­plaints from dis­grun­tled staff in the de­part­ment’s hu­man re­sources di­vi­sion.

Nx­esi’s spokesper­son, Sa­belo Mali, said yes­ter­day the min­is­ter had known Hugo for more than 25 years but de­nied they were friends. “The min­is­ter has de­cided to bring Hugo back to the de­part­ment due to his skills and ex­per­tise, noth­ing else.”

Mali said the min­is­ter did not need Vukela’s per­mis­sion “when there is a need to bring a skill to the de­part­ment”.

Vukela said he hoped the pres­i­dent would seek his ver­sion of events.

“I have noth­ing to do with the re­fur­bish­ment of Nkandla … and the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity re­fused to press any charges be­cause I have no case to an­swer,” he said.

“As for the po­lice scan­dal, I was dis­ci­plined and fired but won the case at the bar­gain­ing coun­cil. The de­part­ment was forced to re­in­state me … and to this day they have never ap­pealed that rul­ing.”

Cronin this week de­clined to com­ment.

 ??  ?? Thu­las Nx­esi
Thu­las Nx­esi
 ??  ?? Sam Vukela
Sam Vukela

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