An acting director general was appointed for two days this week in the communications department after a mysterious fallout between Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda and his director general, Mamodupi Mohlala.
Dr Harold Wesso, who was heading an e-skills institute in the department, told the Mail & Guardian he was placed in the post of acting director general late on Wednesday afternoon. The M&G was told that Wesso was temporarily appointed because Nyanda had tried to set up a meeting three times with Mohlala, but she had said she was sick.
Because of her claim, Nyanda appointed Wesso in the acting position but did not suspend her.
“My appointment letter said it was just for two days, until Friday,” Wesso said on Thursday. “What is happening after that, I am not sure. I was appointed acting director general late [on Wednesday] afternoon and I will be trying to maintain the status quo.”
Nyanda’s and Mohlala’s families have strong links with each other, but on Thursday Business Day reported that Mohlala was about to be suspended by Nyanda, following repeated disagreements over tenders she refused to sign.
The story reported unsubstantiated claims that she had refused to approve tenders that were awarded to companies linked to people close to Nyanda and a private company partly owned by Nyanda, General Nyanda Security (GNS).
Communications department spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said Nyanda dismissed the allegations in the report “as false, spurious and malicious”.
“The minister is not involved in the issuing or adjudication of tenders,” he said. “Such is the responsibility of the management of the department.”
Nyanda would not address administration and human resources issues through the media and was dealing with departmental management internally, Rikhotso said.
Mohlala agreed to answer M&G questions about the tender controversy but then failed to do so. Instead, she confined her response to an explanation of her relationship with the minister and said she would return to the office on July 19.
“The minister and I have a conducive work relationship and I respect the mutual relationship both the minister as an executive authority and I as an accounting officer have,” wrote Mohlala.
In past weeks communications department staff said tensions have become apparent between Mohlala and Nyanda. A source close to the ANC NEC’s communications subcommittee said Mohlala had alienated the party when she bypassed the committee on policy issues.
“There have been major fireworks … she doesn’t attend meetings with them and has taken new policy to the Cabinet, such as on broadband, where there has been no debate.”