The former MEC for the Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Maruping Lekwene believes that it would be “disastrous” to his career and reputation, if the Public Protector’s recommendations to take remedial action – to ultimately remove him from office, were taken against him.
THE FORMER MEC for the Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Maruping Lekwene believes that it would be “disastrous” to his career and reputation, if the Public Protector’s recommendations to take remedial action – to ultimately remove him from office, were taken against him.
Adverse findings of improper conduct and maladministration were made against him in the Public Protector’s report, in relation to the appointment of the chief executive officer of the Northern Cape Gambling board, Vincent Mothibi.
The Northern Cape High Court on Friday granted an urgent interim interdict to prevent the Premier Dr Zamani Saul from instituting disciplinary steps against him as was advised in the Public Protector’s report by July 3 – 30 days after her report was released on June 3.
In court papers Lekwene stated that any remedial action alluded to would be “extremely damaging” to his professional and political career.
“It is not difficult to see that if the interim order was not granted, I would suffer a huge amount of reputational as well as financial damage that will be irreparable even in the event of me succeeding to have the report reviewed and set aside.”
He pointed out that the findings that claimed that he had not acted in good faith and that his conduct was not consistent with the integrity of his office, amounted to serious allegations at a time where the conduct of politicians were “meticulously scrutinised” by members of the public.
“The findings do not form part of the investigation that was undertaken and in respect of which I was called to reply. It appears as if the public protector wittingly or unwittingly has permitted her office and its extensive powers to be weaponised against me. The Public Protector failed to act impartially, without fear, favour or prejudice. She acted in a manner that was unconstitutional, unlawful, irrational, improper and invalid.”
Lekwene insisted that he had not acted in bad faith, contrary to good governance, or against the executive ethics code or the Constitution.
“Given the drastic nature of the remedial action and the impact it would have on me, it would have been incumbent on the Public Protector to have given me notice of the remedial action and to afford me an opportunity to advance reasons why that action would not be appropriate under the circumstances of the case.”
He indicated that the Premier did not have the powers to take disciplinary steps against him but could only dismiss an MEC in terms of the Constitution.
“The Public Protector is therefore seeking to achieve my removal from office as an MEC. Her findings are baseless and scurrilous conclusions that are not based on any evidence or on a rational and fair assessment of the actual evidence.”
Lekwene stated that the Public Protector had no power to instruct the Premier to take disciplinary action against him or any other MEC.
“The remedial action interferes with the Constitutional powers of the Premier to determine what measures are most appropriate to deal with the alleged conduct. The Public Protector ventured too far. She should have left the matter to the discretion of the Premier.”
He said that due to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the province, he was not able to adequately consult with the Premier regarding the remedial action contained in the Public Protector’s report.
Lekwene added that he had clearly outlined to the Public Protector that the gambling board had failed to appoint a permanent CEO since June 2013.
“My evidence to the Public Protector indicated that what propelled me to second and appoint Mr Mothibi on contract is the fact that there is currently a moratorium on the filling of vacant posts in the province. I have a duty to exercise political oversight over the board. It would be remiss of me to turn a blind eye on the situation at the board. All interventions were made in consultation with the chairperson of the gambling board Advocate Steenkamp. I acted in the best interests of the gambling board and my intention was to serve good governance and administration.”
He stated that there were no minimum prescribed qualifications needed by the CEO of the gambling board.
“The three year diploma that Mothibi possesses plus his extensive experience as a manager in the public service made him suitable for the temporary appointment as the CEO. The board would set requirements for the permanent appointment of the CEO when it was ready to embark on the recruitment drive.”