THE Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday raised concerns about the potential change of guard at the Department of Communications, saying it could hamper the delivery of key programmes.
This comes after the department announced that its director-general, Rosey Sekese, has been placed on "special leave". The department did not provide reasons for the decision.
Marian Shinn, the DA spokeswoman for communications, said South Africa’s economic growth depended, to a large degree, on an affordable, widespread, technologically advanced communications system.
"And the department is just not capable of delivering this because of its lack of focus on core issues, appropriately skilled and experienced management. This latest turmoil just exacerbates that," she said.
Ms Sekese came under fire last year after it became clear, during the two portfolio committee meetings last year, that she had misled the committee about the status of her performance contract which needed to be signed by both herself (Ms Sekese) and the minister, said Ms Shinn.
Misleading parliament is a criminal offence and the committee recommended that the minister consider the options to "deal conclusively" with this matter of the unsigned contract, said Ms Shinn.
"It was clear from the way Ms Sekese handled the discussion during the portfolio committee meetings on the issue, that there was a serious breakdown of communication between her and the minister, so much so that it appeared irreconcilable," said Ms Shinn.
She also said the legal advice Ms Sekese offered also indicated a "fairly basic misunderstanding" of what constitutes a legal contract and therefore "cast serious doubt" on her abilities to carry out her responsibilities as DG.
"Ms Sekese has not been that effective as DG. The strategic plans for the department showed a lack of focus with, initially, far too many programmes and unachievable targets," said Ms Shinn.
Two sources told Business Day that tension between Ms Sekese and Ms Pule has been brewing for some time and that the parliamentary issue was the last straw. One of the sources said Ms Pule was misled before by Ms Sekese on other issues related to the department and the sector as a whole but gave her a chance to rectify those mistakes.
"It seems that trust and confidence has been broken between the two," the source said. Siyabulela Qoza, the minister’s spokesman, said deputy director-general, Gift Buthelezi had been appointed as acting DG until February 15 2013.
Mr Qoza would not provide further information regarding Ms Sekese’s matter but said the department was dealing with it internally. Ms Sekese did not respond to Business Day’s calls.
This is not the first time that a communications DG has been suspended. In 2010, former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda suspended the then DG Mamodupi Mohlala. But Ms Mohlala successfully challenged the decision and in an out-of-court settlement, was later appointed as the National Consumer Commissioner. She has since left the commission.