A big question for Thursday's State of the Nation Address is whether President Zuma will use the opportunity to end over a year of uncertainty and mismanagement in the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and appoint a permanent head of the unit. And, if he does, will it be someone of integrity who will be immune to political interference and influence?
Acting Head Adv. Nomvula Mokhatla has, over the last year, shown that she is either unable or unwilling to take charge of the unit and run it in a manner that is beyond reproach. For example, she reinstated Miseria Nyathi, who was discharged by Adv. Willie Hofmeyr for the following reasons:
refusing to take a polygraph test on a number of occasions, which was a material term of her contract of employment;
findings of an internal investigations showing that she was responsible for distributing at least one slanderous document to over 300 SIU members; and
submitting claims for working hours that she did not perform, which amounts to fraud.
Legal advice given to Adv. Mokhatla informed her that reinstatement would be unlawful and would in all likelihood amount to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Notwithstanding this, she went ahead.
Ms Nyathi is now effectively in control of the SIU. In addition to being reinstated to the position of Head of Business Support she is now also, according to our information, acting Chief Financial Officer, Acting Head of Governance and Risk, Acting Head Internal Audit, and Acting Oversight of the Internal Integrity Unit - the very same unit that uncovered her nefarious activities. Needless to say, she has taken control of the file relating to her disciplinary issue, which we have learned has now been swept under the carpet by Adv. Mokhatla. She has also, we believe, appointed a number of very junior forensic investigators as internal auditors despite their having little to no experience in internal auditing.
We have previously reported on the unacceptable number of senior resignations over the last year, and have asked the Public Protector to investigate the state of affairs at the SIU. We have still not heard from her whether she will conduct the investigation, despite promising to advise us early in January.
The President's failure to appoint a permanent head for 14 months, especially under these conditions, leaves us with no option but to assume that he approves of what is going on there. This completely undermines his stated commitment to fighting corruption, and unfortunately contributes to the increasing lack of investor confidence in our country.
We sincerely hope that the President will put an end to the misery in the SIU on Thursday, and appoint a credible permanent head of the unit. It goes without saying that neither Adv. Mokhatla nor Ms Nyathi would fit that description.
Debbie Schafer, Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development