By: Steve Motale
A decision by Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to order forensic probe and lifestyle audit of Lepelle Northern Water and disbanded Amatola Water Board and its senior executives is what led to an intensified campaign against the minister and her management team.
Amatola Water chief executive officer Vuyo Zitumane and her Lepelle Northern Water counterpart, Phineas Legodi both filed affidavits claiming that a top Sisulu aide and the ministry tried to pressure them into using a technology called sand water abstraction, to extract water from sandy riverbeds. Both are currently on “precautionary suspension.
Africa News 24-7 can reveal that the campaign against Sisulu intensified after her decision to order a forensic investigation into the affairs and financial position of Amatola Water Board and Lepelle Northern Water. This was exacerbated by her decision to end the term of office of the interim board at Amatola Water in the Eastern Cape, following years of instability and infighting.
Sisulu’s detractors including the DA blasted the move, claiming it was aimed at silencing whistle-blowers. However Sisulu stood her ground, insisting that Amatola Water Board had for a long period been characterised by instability and infighting, “which had rendered it dysfunctional and that her decision to end the board’s term and appointing legal administrators to manage the affairs of Amatola Water was “the only practical solution left to address the enduring instability”.
Impeccable sources have told Africa News 24-7 that the board was being used by some “over ambitious” politicians who want to topple and destroy Sisulu.
“I was reliably informed that a senior comrade of ours who sits in the economic cluster angrily approached a weekend newspaper to demand accountability on why articles it published on comrade Sisulu and her advisors were not hard enough. Clearly, this is an obvious orchestrate campaign whose strategy is to smear Sisulu by making her a target of negative publicity which portrays her as corrupt and unethical. The ultimate objective of this campaign, in which the mainstream media is highly complicit, is to influence President Cyril Ramaphosa to axe Sisulu should he decides to reshuffle his Cabinet,” said an ANC national executive committee (NEC) member who preferred to remain anonymous.
“There are several national working committee (NWC) members who have questioned lack of support comrade Sisulu is getting from her two deputies in her fight against corruption.”
In a letter, dated 12 April, which Africa News 24-7 has seen, Sisulu also requested forensic accounting firm Open Water Advanced Risk Solutions to conduct a lifestyle audit on previous board members of Amatola Water Board, its senior management including suspended chief executive Vuyo Zitumane, her personal assistant, Thandi Njotini, chief financial officer Livuyo Fokazi, chief operating officer Asanda Gidana and the board’s legal counsel Deon Hecker.”. Another forensic firm is handling a similar investigation into Lepelle Northern Water
It is believed these pending probes triggered a fightback by Zitumane and Legodi who went on to file explosive affidavits against Sisulu and her top aide. A highly-placed source told Africa News 24-7 that the affidavits “are an act of desperation by those who fear what would come out of the forensic investigation and the lifestyle audit ordered by Sisulu. “People are scared of what this forensic audit is going to reveal. In the process, they resort to fake affidavits, lies and character assassination to hide the shady deals they’ve been involved in,” said the source who insisted that the outcome of the probe “will shock many”.
The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) rallied behind Sisulu who it believes is a target of a smear campaign. In a statement, the ANCWL said it had noted “with disgust the continuous media smear campaigns tactics against Minister Lindiwe Sisulu”. “The tactics of tarnishing Minister Sisulu’s image by subjecting her to Courts of public opinions is cowardice approach. We challenge those who have evidence of Minister Sisulu acting unlawfully or involved in any fraud and corruption to approach law enforcement agencies,” said ANCWL secretary Meokgo Matuba.
Matuba said since taking office, “Minister Sisulu has tried a variety of interventions to resolve management and governance issues which plagued the affairs of Amatola Water Board and Lepelle Northern Water Board respectively”.
“Waters Boards are instrumental in providing much needed basic service which is water. Water is life and a very important and scarce resource, therefore the Minister acted decisively without fear or favour on Water Boards faced with management and government issues that hinder their ability to perform their functions effectively. Matuba said the ANCWL supported Sisulu in her interventions.
“The ANCWL reiterates its respect for media freedom and believes that the media freedom goes with responsibility of journalists to remain ethical. The unethical behaviour of some journalists to subject political leaders to the courts of public opinion must be condemned as it corrodes the noble profession of journalism.” Matuba said “a free press is one of the pillars of democracy and the best democracies are ones in which there is freedom of press”.
However, all journalists must ensure that they report the truth, objectively and to desist from being used as proxies of political battles. There must be objectivity in journalism and journalists should represent facts whether or not they like or agree with those facts. The ANCWL supports Minister Sisulu and her collective in executing the mandate of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation. No amount of smear campaign should detract her and her team from performing their duties,” Matuba said.