On a paid hiatus and in limbo, top IT (information technology) executive at the South African Revenue Service (Sars), Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane has been asked to resign and take a golden handshake, according to documents seen by The Citizen.
This alleged request to convince her to leave the organisation has been confirmed by a well-placed Sars employee, who claims that despite a disciplinary process under way against Makhekhe-Mokhuane, who is accused of bringing the institution into disrepute, no charges have been presented to her.
A disastrous televised interview she had on the SABC’s Morning Live show last year resulted in her being ridiculed for sounding uninformed about basic IT concepts and appearing unprepared for the interview. Her appeal to anchor Sakina Kamwendo to “protect me from yourself” also went viral on social media.
A source is claiming that not only was she pushed to go on air at the 11th hour after Sars commissioner Mark Kingon cancelled his appearance, she was under strict instruction to avoid answering questions about Sars’ aging IT infrastructure, to insist all was well and encourage taxpayers to use the e-filing system.
Makhekhe-Mokhuane’s department became one of the key subjects of the Nugent commission of inquiry into Sars, which recommended the firing of former commissioner Tom Moyane.
She was placed on discretionary leave in January, according to Sars spokesperson Sandile Memela, although an official letter from Kingon seen by The Citizen suggests she went on extended sick leave soon after the SABC debacle, returning to her office in January this year.
The source argued she had, in fact, been on discretionary leave at the end of October. By then, she had already been temporarily replaced by Tau Mashigo, who was the group executive for service delivery before he left the organisation in March.
Intikhab Shaik, who also testified at the Nugent commission, has since been appointed as acting digital information services and technology (Dist) chief.
In another letter addressed to Makhekhe-Mokhuane’s lawyer and penned by Kingon, the commissioner expressed his concern for the reputation of Sars, following the SABC interview.
It reads: “As [she] is aware, Sars has suffered severe reputational damage resulting from her performance in the SABC interview.”
Kingon goes on to refer to an offer of “mutual separation”, which the source has confirmed was an offer of four months’ salary for her resignation.
The letter claims employees working under her were also calling for her not to return, criticising the “severe” damage to the institution’s reputation and that of the district department.
It is apparent in the letter that Makhekhe-Mokhuane refused to resign and Kingon threatened to proceed with disciplinary action against her, which could lead to her dismissal should she not take the offer.
Sars spokesperson Sandile Memela would not provide details of the IT boss’ unexplained hiatus. He also could not confirm that Makhekhe-Mokhuane had been offered a golden handshake.
“Sars is not in a position to comment, divulge or discuss details of internal processes and employee information in the public domain as these are confidential matters between the organisation and its employees.
“Please take note that disciplinary procedures against employees are confidential and are managed accordingly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Makhekhe-Mokhuane remains on paid leave.
The source suggested the ordeal had taken a toll on the IT boss and her family, even exposing her teenage daughter to school bullying after videos of the interview became an internet sensation.
Makhekhe-Mokhuane has apparently taken her daughter out of boarding school following an incident in which she tried to harm herself.
- Makhekhe-Mokhuane’s annual wage shot up from R2.2 million to R3.1 million within months of taking office.
- During her appearance at the investigation into Sars, Judge Robert Nugent highlighted this increase as “deeply concerning”.
- The four-month golden handshake currently offered would amount to R1,033,332.
- She has earned the same amount in the past four months of being on leave, while an acting IT (information technology) boss has been in place.