Former National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane and former intelligence head Mo Shaik have been appointed as special advisors by Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
This was revealed in Sisulu’s response to a parliamentary question by DA MP Emma Louise Powell.
Simelane’s appointment by former president Jacob Zuma was found to have been invalid by the Constitutional Court, who also questioned his “conscientiousness, integrity, and credibility” in its judgment.
Sisulu also appointed him as a special advisor in 2013 when she was minister of public service and administration.
Shaik recently testified at the Zondo commission into state capture that while he was still at the State Security Agency (SSA) former minister Siyabonga Cwele ordered that they drop an investigation into the Guptas in 2011.
In her response, Sisulu stated that “posts in the ministry have been filled as outlined in the Guide for Members of the Executive, otherwise commonly referred to as the Ministerial Handbook”.
“Conditions of employment, such as salaries and qualifications of staff, are confidential. Laws such as the Protection of Personal Information Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment, among others, protects the confidentiality of such information,” Sisulu stated.
Powell said the DA will file a complaint at the Public Service Commission to investigate the appointment of Simelane and Shaik, and file a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to request the disclosure of the salaries of these individuals and others working in the Minister’s office, given her office’s refusal to disclose their price tags.
Powell said taxpayers deserved to know how much the state was paying for the “likely exorbitant salaries” of Simelane and Shaik.
As part of Powell’s question, she also wanted to know who was appointed to the National Department of Water and Sanitation’s National Rapid Response Task Team (NRRTT).
Among the 19 members of the NRRTT is former PAC leader Thami Ka Plaatjie and University of Cape Town #RhodesMustFall activist Chumani Maxwele.
“Even more worrying is the fact that the majority of Sisulu’s appointments to the NRRTT would appear to be allies in her campaign [to] run for ANC Deputy President,” Powell said.
“Furthermore, the members working for minister Sisulu’s office and those on the NRRTT would appear to be grossly mis-hired for the roles they are meant to fill. This becomes evidently clear when we find individuals with degrees in optometry, such as Mo Shaik, have been provided with the executive position of special advisor to a department whose primary objective is to care for water and sanitation,” Powell said.
She also pointed out that according to Sisulu’s answer, at least seven members appointed to the NRRTT are yet to submit their CVs.
“It is a great disservice to all South Africans that a task team meant to aid with the devastating drought crises faced by provinces, is composed of individuals without any relevant qualifications in sight.”
Sisulu explained her rationale for appointing the NRRTT as follows in her response to Powell: “The NRRTT has been in existence since the fifth administration when I was the minister of human settlements.
“The team did not only act as communicators and the consultation arm of the department, but it is also in the front line when there are emergencies in informal settlements.
“A case in point is the disaster which befell the community of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay in 2017, where a large section of this area was devastated by fires. Another example is the delay that was caused to the implementation of the N2 Gateway Project in 2007 and 2008 where people who were due to benefit from the project refused to relocate.
“Due to the enormity of the challenges facing the Department of Water and Sanitation, which I am now also responsible for, we replicated the model and appointed additional NRRTT members to assist with water and sanitation issues, such as the protests in the Vaal and Butterworth areas.”
Shaik and Simelane are not Sisulu’s first controversial recent appointments. In November, it emerged she appointed former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini as chairperson of the social housing regulatory authority interim board (SHRA).
Dlamini, chairperson of the ANC Women’s League, didn’t make it to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet after the May 2019 elections. Her tenure as social development minister was marred by the looming loss of a capable service provider to pay social grants.
In September 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that Dlamini had withheld information from the court, and that the National Prosecuting Authority should determine whether she should be prosecuted for perjury.