The North West Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (NW-DARD) has fired its head of department – for helping farmers in the province. Awarding the more than R100 million contract to the Grain SA’s grain farmer development programme has cost Dr Mmamakgaba Mogajane her job. In South Africa, it appears that people get fired for doing the right thing yet keep their jobs when things go wrong.
According to Auditor General Terence Nombembe, government’s wastage of public funds now stands at R30,8 billion. Yet many public office bearers are still sitting cosily in their offices. Documents dealing with Mogajane’s hearing state that she was not fired for any wrongdoing, but for a technicality, hence her application for appeal. The department, on the other hand, said that she had acted wrongfully by not putting the contract out for a tender to allow service providers to bid.
Looking at the Grain SA farmer development programme, one would have to agree that it is one of the most successful initiatives in the country, as black farmers are being assisted to become commercial grain farmers. Grain SA’s track record also proves that no one has been able to do a better job. The department, however, argued that there were other service providers on the market. I was amazed to hear the National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (Nerpo) as one of the providers named. Meat? This is a matter concerning grain production.
Another organisation mentioned was Temo Agri Services, under MGK. But this was discontinued years ago! And yet another company identified by the department, Gobeng Consulting, has no track record in agriculture. All this makes me think that either the MEC and her assistants have no clue of what is happening in the industry, or are up to no good. Why would the department fire someone, who for the first time since the ANC government took over, helped 108 farmers plant on land that had stood fallow for more than 17 years? The department argued that Mogajane did not follow correct procedure. But did the money not do what it was supposed to do? Did it go missing?
Questionable rush and secrecy
The manner in which this issue has been handled makes one question the motive behind Mogajane’s firing. She is respected by the majority of the farmers in the province. And charges against her include refusing to appoint an unqualified person as per her boss’s instruction.
And why the urgency to fire Mogajane and advertise her position even before the matter was settled? When asked if the matter was indeed settled, she said she had appealed the decision but had had no correspondence from the department.
When she was originally suspended, the department issued a press release, but recently everything has been done in secrecy. It has been over a month since Mogajane was fired, yet very few people know about it, especially the farmers.