Gungubele given bloody nose in Sita board mess

Communications minister Mondli Gungubele

Parliamentary legal experts have concluded that communications minister Mondli Gungubele must abide by a high court ruling that the board of the State IT Agency (Sita) be reinstated pending an appeal.

Parliament has rebuffed Gungubele’s decision to ignore a high court ruling ordering the reappointment of the board of Sita, which was fired by the minister in July last year. Parliament said its legal team has found that the minister’s application to appeal the decision does not set the court’s ruling aside, as he had expected.

This is according to a parliamentary memorandum, which TechCentral has seen. According to the memorandum, the portfolio committee on communications & digital technologies asked parliament for an interpretation of the ruling given earlier this month by judge AJ Yende in the high court in Pretoria.

“The order handed down by AJ Yende, dated 2 February 2024, is valid until set aside about another court. Unless the minister can advise the committee that the request for the interim order to be suspended was granted by court, the order must be implemented,” said the memo.

The minister fired members of the Sita board, causing others subsequently to resign, over a spat about then incoming CEO Bongani Andy Mabaso’s salary. According to Gungubele, the board “unilaterally” decided to raise the salary offered to Mabaso – who recently resigned and went back to the private sector as group chief technology officer of JSE-listed Altron – by R1-million without consulting him. This consultation, he said, is required under Sita’s memorandum of incorporation.

This is despite the board’s November 2022 recommendation of Mabaso for the CEO position at a salary of R3.5-million/year. Mabaso was actually offered R4.5-million, according to the court papers.


But other stakeholders, including the Public Servants Association (PSA), the only union representing Sita employees, are convinced that the minister’s firing of the board was motivated by ulterior motives.

In December last year, Gungubele appointed a ministerial task team to look into the causes of the procurement backlog at Sita, with former advisor to the minister of small business development, Simphiwe Dzengwa, as its chair. Two months later, in February, Dzengwa was appointed as acting MD of Sita, a move described by PSA spokesman Zamani Dladla as “suspicious”.

Read: Unease over ructions at Sita

In an interview with TechCentral two weeks ago, Dladla denounced Dzengwa’s appointment as well as Gungubele’s reluctance to reappoint the original board despite the high court order. Dladla said that the PSA’s biggest fear is that the interim board at Sita is being used as part of a ploy to siphon money from the agency.

“The interference started when this new board came into being. Employees were suspended left and right without cause,” Dladla claimed. “Some are sitting at home now and drawing a salary from Sita, but they have not been charged with anything. The information that we have is that these [suspended] employees are just standing in the way of people accessing whatever they want to access at Sita.”

TechCentral approached the ministry of communications for comment, but it had not responded by time of publication.

According to the parliamentary memo, the board the high court ordered be reinstated is the one officially accountable to parliament regarding Sita’s affairs.

“In the premises, the current accounting authority of Sita is the erstwhile board,” it said.  — (c) 2024 NewsCentral Media

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