Top heads may roll in KZN agriculture

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sibusiso Ndebele has decided to press ahead with disciplinary action against Dr Jabulani Mjwara, head of department for the province’s Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA), and Petrus Mahlangu, the DAEA’s chief financial officer, following allegations of financial mismanagement within the department.
Issue Date: 13 April 2007

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sibusiso Ndebele has decided to press ahead with disciplinary action against Dr Jabulani Mjwara, head of department for the province’s Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA), and Petrus Mahlangu, the DAEA’s chief financial officer, following allegations of financial mismanagement within the department.

The results of recent investigations carried out by the KZN Treasury, and requested by the province’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts in October last year, into the alleged mismanagement of over R100 million of DAEA funds have prompted Ndebele and his director general Prof Mandla Mchunu to instigate the disciplinary hearings soon. Criticisms of Mjwara’s management of the DAEA have come from many quarters in the three and a half years he has held his position.

It is alleged there has been poor record-keeping of the beneficiaries of funding for government agricultural projects in the province; Mjwara has been accused of employing staff and awarding tenders without following due process while also giving favours for friends; and public funds have been hugely overspent on poorly planned and unbudgeted agricultural projects. “Premier Ndebele is taking a very strong stance on the mismanagement of public funds in his province.

Charges against Dr Mjwara and Mr Mahlangu are being formulated as we speak and the disciplinary hearings will take place as soon as possible,” said provincial government spokesperson Mandla Msomi. Msomi would not reveal what actions Ndebele would take against the two accused if they were found guilty. All he was willing to say was that the actions would be “appropriate depending on the outcome of the hearings”. KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union president Robin Barnsley said: “There is a massive opportunity for growth in KwaZulu-Natal’s rural agricultural communities, but only if there can be the right degree of integration and interaction between the various sections within the province’s Department of Agriculture. This has been missing in recent times.”

The province’s commercial farming sector has also been rumbling about lack of capacity within the DAEA following the suspension of some highly skilled scientists by Mjwara for often unclear reasons, as well as the large number of resignations of other skilled staff members. – Lloyd Phillips