Eastern Cape premier claims redeployments are to build a ‘crack team’, but DA says it’s a ‘smokescreen’
Premier of the Eastern Cape Oscar Mabuyane’s claims that he is removing the directors-general from failing departments in the province to ‘build a crack team’ have been shot down by the DA.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane on Tuesday defended his decision to redeploy several directors-general in the province to the premier’s office, saying that he was building a “crack team” to build the “capacity of the state”.
Mabuyane held a rare press briefing to explain why he had redeployed head of the Department of Health Dr Rolene Wagner, a highly regarded public health specialist, to his office instead of supporting her work in the health department.
Sindiswa Gede, the head of Amatola District Health, who won the Covid-19 Healthworker of the Year award from the premier in 2021 for going beyond the call of duty, has been appointed the acting head of the Eastern Cape Department of Health.
“One of the seven priorities of the ANC-led government during this term is building a capable, ethical and developmental state,” the premier said.
“In the State of the Province Address of 2023, we pronounced the need to implement various interventions, including the establishment of the ‘crack team’ in the Office of the Premier as part of building the capacity of the state.
“This ‘crack team’, which we have since named the Project Support Unit, is made up of a high-powered team of leaders with proven capabilities and skills in public administration. It is a team that is formed in the same spirit as the Provincial Command Council that worked like a well-oiled machine in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The Eastern Cape was not regarded as a province that sailed through the Covid-19 pandemic.
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But Mabuyane pushed on: “The focus of the team will be to scale up the implementation of government commitments in the critical areas we have identified as lagging in our monitoring and evaluation processes.
“These areas are investment coordination, support to local government, driving education and health turnaround strategies, designated groups coordination and state machinery transformation, driving strategic and catalytic projects.
“I want a full hands-on-deck approach in these areas of our work for maximum progress and impact. The tasks this team will be seized with require cross-cutting functions of social facilitation, change management, communication, back-office support, systems and operations.
“With effect from the 1st of October 2023, I am therefore drawing from the expertise and talents of our existing human capital by seconding the following senior government officials to be part of the Project Support Unit.”
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The “crack team” will be staffed by the heads of some of the worst-performing departments in the province.
It includes Wagner, who has been redeployed from her position at the Department of Health, which has been crumbling under the weight of systemic challenges — although Wagner’s efforts had been hailed by healthcare activists.
Other members are Andile Fani, the head of the failing Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and the department’s chief director, Mboniswa Nodlabi.
Siphokazi Ndudane, the head of the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, who was recently arrested for failing to report a crime while she was the deputy director-general of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, is also part of the team.
Mabuyane also named the head of the failing Department of Transport, Mzi Mafani; the former chief financial officer of the struggling Makana Municipality, Busisiwe Khumalo; and the youth development officer at the Department of Social Development, Athini Majikija, as members of the “crack team”.
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“This formidable team will be led by the director-general and their base camp is now the Office of the Premier. As you can see, some of the officials are heads of departments. We have entered into secondment agreements with the officials and their respective departments for a period of 12 months because the tasks we are assigning them are matters of provincial importance.”
Mabuyane has appointed new acting heads of departments.
The Democratic Alliance’s Yusuf Cassim was not convinced.
“Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s announcement of a new ‘crack team’ today reveals a provincial government in full panic mode. He is merely shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic as a smokescreen to hide a collapsing administration,” he said.
“According to the premier, the team is meant to scale up the implementation of government commitments in the critical areas that have been identified as lagging in monitoring and evaluation processes.
“The truth is that his executive members and their heads of department have failed to deal effectively with the challenges in these departments.
“The premier appears to be following the same strategy as President Cyril Ramaphosa, in centralising control, as he is scared and unable to hold his MECs accountable.
“Premier Mabuyane’s ‘crack team’ has been drawn from departments where there are already huge fault lines that they could not fix while at the helm.
“No amount of window dressing can hide the fact that this is a collapsing administration,” Cassim said. DM