The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation calls on Gauteng Premier David Makhura to consider dismissing the MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Faith Mazibuko.

This comes after amaBhungane published an audio clip of Mazibuko intimidating her departmental officials into bypassing procedures to build ‘combi’ sports courts in communities ahead of the elections in May.

Despite officials informing Mazibuko that there is no legal mechanism currently in place for the courts to be built within the timeframe, the MEC can be heard threatening them to carry out her instructions, or resign.

Mazibuko then goes on a racist and sexist rant. She refers to the race and gender of two of the officials, indicating that hiring an Indian and white woman, has “backfired” on her.

“That’s why some departments don’t even want to see a white woman or any Indian woman, aba bafuni (they do not want them), it’s not about racism. It’s because you like talking English,” the MEC can be heard saying.

The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, said that it was “precisely the type of attitude exhibited by Mazibuko that led to the Life Esidimeni tragedy, where public officials were put under pressure by their political heads, resulting in improper and unethical decision making. We’ve seen the disastrous consequences of this tragedy, yet it seems that MEC Mazibuko still thinks that it’s okay to bully officials into bypassing proper procedures”.

“Similarly, our country’s experience of state capture over the last few years has demonstrated what can go wrong when public servants do not stand up to political pressure, or processes which are unlawful or irregular.”

He added, “One of the reasons provided by the MEC to build the combi courts as a matter of urgency, appears to be to gain voter support ahead of the elections. That the MEC, whose duty it is to provide services to the public, appears to want to use this project for party political gains just before the elections is grossly irregular and is possibly a violation of the electoral code of conduct.”

Balton explained that last year, Premier Makhura held a conference which spoke about public servants being the vanguard against state capture, corruption and unethical and unaccountable governance. He also appointed an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Advisory Council to deal with issues related to integrity and corruption. “The Premier asked public servants who are put under pressure by their political heads to bypass procedure or conduct work in an improper manner, to refuse to be intimidated into doing so, and to report the matter to him directly.

“In this instance, we applaud officials who in the sound clip can be heard trying to tell Mazibuko that they will only conduct their duties within the legal framework. We also commend the person who leaked the recording the media. It’s important for officials to know that they have the public’s backing when it comes to them doing their work in the right way. We hope that the contents of this clip prompts the Premier to question the fitness of the MEC to continue in her current position.

“Based on the evidence presented in the clip, we will be formally writing to the Public Service Commission, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Premier, calling on them to act on this matter. Mazibuko’s half hearted apology for her “tone” will do little to allay public concerns that she had placed undue pressure on her officials.”

Balton also stated that he was “deeply perturbed” by the racialised and sexist nature of Mazibuko’s attack on the officials. “There was absolutely no reason to raise the fact that the officials in question are both women, that one is white and the other Indian, and that they speak English. By insinuating that white and Indian female officials are ‘sticklers’ for procedure, is Mazibuko suggesting that African or coloured officials are simply willing to bypass the law to get things done? The MEC further suggests that white and Indian women are not often employed in other departments and that she has made an exception in this regard. If this is indeed the case, or if such perceptions are pervasive, then we need to be asking some serious questions about the type of culture and attitudes that exist that around race and gender within the public service.”

He added, “Over and above all this, is simply the rude and arrogant manner in which Mazibuko feels entitled to speak to her staff. That she gets ‘irritated’ when officials try to tell her about procedure, and that she refuses to allow them to express their concerns, is very telling about her management style. I don’t think we need leaders who pose as servants of the people, but in reality have little respect for the individuals who work with them in trying to carry out this mandate.”

 

* Note to editors – for the record: Premier David Makhura and the Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi, both serve on the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Board. This statement has not been read or approved by them before being issued.

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