Arts funding scandal: Whistle-blower being bullied, says union

2018-03-26 10:00

A whistle-blower at the state’s arts funding body the National Arts Council (NAC) is not receiving a fair disciplinary hearing, says a union representative who has been handling her case.

Mary-Anne Makgoka is being spoken down to, is not allowed to submit recording in her hearings and is being prosecuted by the chair of the NAC board, who would normally be the authority Makgoka would appeal to if she lost, says a representative of National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).

The case against Mangope

Makgoka was suspended from her duties after 14 years as board secretary after it was revealed that she reported on allegations of irregular practice at the NAC.

Makgoka offered proof that chief executive Rosemary Mangope had irregularly signed off on a deal to fund a project called Lalela to conduct art education for underprivileged school children, first for R50 000 and then for R1.8 million. Lalela is headed by Andrea Kerzner, daughter of Sol Kerzner, while Mangope is the daughter-in-law of the late Bophuthatswana leader Lucas Mangope, who awarded Kerzner gambling rights to develop the Sun City resort in then-Bophuthatswana.

Chief executive Rosemary Mangope. Picture: supplied

Not only did Mangope not declare the family history, the project was also allegedly submitted directly to the NAC’s executive committee without going through proper screening processes. Makgoka also claimed Mangope had irregularly awarded herself a massive increase and bonus.

The department of arts and culture reported to Parliament’s portfolio committee on arts and culture that they had found Mangope to have acted irregularly in the matters and the committee instructed the NAC to institute disciplinary action against Mangope. Yet Mangope has not been disciplined while Makgoka faces dismissal as her hearing draws to a close on Tuesday next week.

The NAC did not answer City Press’ questions on the matter. All spokesperson Janet Molekwa would say is, “Please note that the NAC Council has taken a decision to not respond to the questions but to rather distribute a statement early next week.”

The case against Makgoka

Nehawu says that the chair of Makgoka’s disciplinary hearing, Advocate Ian Posthumus, will not allow audio recordings, presumably of NAC board meetings, as evidence in the process, which is against labour law. Nehawu has also accused Posthumus of bias in his approach to Makgoka.

Makgoka is being charged for speaking to the media about internal NAC matters – which she later also reported to Parliament – as well as failing to perform her duties as board secretary. But Nehawu says that the NAC is supposed to first attempt to upskill or capacitate Makgoka to do her job better. They have not done so. Makgoka, Nehawu says, has a clean record in her time at the council.

Nehawu also says Makgoka is being “bullied” in the hearings and that NAC board chair Hartley Ngoato speaks to her “in a very disrespectful and impatient way”. Ngoato, they say, is conflicted in his role as prosecutor because he serves on a board that has not instituted action against Mangope and that he would be the authority Makgoka would appeal to if she lost her case.

According to Nehawu, Ngoato at one point told them that Makgoka would not be sitting in a hearing if she had just done her job and not become obsessed with getting rid of Mangope.

Nehawu has now appointed a lawyer for Tuesday’s hearing.

Half a million spent dealing with whistle-blowers

The NAC would not reveal how much has been spent on the Makgoka case, or the case of another whistle-blower who exposed the NAC at the same time.

This week City Press heard of another disciplinary action against a staff member who was accused of sharing documents with Freddie Nyathela in another case of alleged NAC corruption reported on by City Press.

Nyathela is the founder and president of the SA Roadies Association, which runs a school teaching young South Africans the technical production skills needed to stage concerts and live events.

City Press has reliably learnt that the staff member’s disciplinary hearing cost just shy of R300 000 of public funds and he was found not guilty.

In Makgoka’s case, Ngoato, an advocate, was personally paid just under R90 000 to investigate the whistle-blowers’ claims.

Sources at the NAC say a second investigation cost in the region of R75 000.

Board expenditure

The NAC would also not answer City Press’ questions about their board blowing its budget after just a few months in the job whereas some previous boards had not spent their allocation after a year.

City Press has reported on NAC board trips to festivals and funerals that lead one board member to resign.

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September 15 2019