South Africa, Politics

Another internecine war rocks the government

By Osiame Molefe 15 May 2012

A war of words has broken out between trade and industry minister Rob Davies and national consumer commissioner Mamedupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi. She says she’s been unfairly dismissed. He doesn’t agree, and the DA has joined the fray. By OSIAME MOLEFE.

Mamedupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s claimed she was effectively fired by way of an advertisement for her job in the weekend papers. Not so, said Rob Davies, bristling on Monday as he told reporters that not only was Mohlala-Mulaudzi informed in February that she would need to re-apply or her job, he said she should not have had the expectation that her contract would be extended beyond its September 2012 end.

“My position is even if there were not these issues, even if I we were dealing with someone who I thought was the ideal person for the position, I would not have been happy to simply extend the contract. When we conveyed that in February, that was the tone of the letter, that was the consultation around the end of the contract,” Davies said.

The issues Davies was referring to were set out in a statement from the department that claimed the National Consumer Commission had financial, human resource and other issues. The statement also claimed that Mohlala-Mulaudzi failed to co-operate with the auditor-general and an independent investigator appointed by the department to look into the agency’s human resource issues.

According to Davies, though, these issues are an aside. He said he had agreed with former public service and administration minister Richard Baloyi to offer Mohlala-Mulaudzi the consumer commissioner position in 2010 in settlement of her lawsuit against her previous employer, the department of communications, where she was director-general. Davies said at the time he did not know Mohlala-Mulaudzi “from a bar of soap”.

Her term as commissioner was to run until 3 September 2012, what would have been the end of her contract as communications director-general. Mohlala-Mulaudzi was free to re-apply for the position with the benefit of being the incumbent, Davies said.

Davies also denied Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s claim that she was being forced out of her job after reporting trade and industry director-general Lionel October to the public protector. He said it was “chronologically the other way round” in that she ran to the protector after receiving the letter stating that the department would embark on an open recruitment process to appoint the next commissioner.

But Mohlala-Mulaudzi, according to reports, said that neither she nor her lawyers recognised the letter as notice that her contract was coming to an end. She replied with a letter from her lawyers, which the department said they did not interpret as an interdict to stop them from proceeding with their plans to advertise the post.

Davies said on Monday that his department filed its answering affidavit contesting the commissioner’s claim that she had been unfairly dismissed.

The DA weighed in on the matter late on Monday demanding that October appear before the trade and industry portfolio committee to explain the circumstances behind the public spat over the termination of Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s services.

“This confrontation must be brought to an end urgently. The only losers in a war between the department and the commissioner are ordinary consumers, who have until now benefited greatly from advocate Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s term of office,” DA deputy shadow minister of trade and industry Geordin Hill-Lewis said, urging October to appear at Wednesday’s committee meeting.

Davies insisted that, had she re-applied for the job, he and October would have recused themselves from the selection panel. Davies also issued a warning to anyone aspiring to a career in the public service.

He said: “There has been a history of litigation that has been happening along the way and I would suggest that anybody who wants to have a career in the public service might want to think (it) may not be the best way that you relate to the executive authority, to who you are ultimately accountable.” DM

Photo: Trade and industry minister Rob Davies. (World Economic Forum)


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