The suspended director-general of rural development and land reform, Mdu Shabane, lost his urgent bid to stop his disciplinary hearing from going ahead today.
Shabane was suspended with full pay in December last year in the wake of a series of forensic investigations into alleged financial mismanagement and tender irregularities within the department.
One of the investigations dealt with the leasing of the Bekendvlei farm in Limpopo – which the department bought for R97 million – to inexperienced, but politically connected individuals without allegedly following proper procedures.
The once-thriving farm quickly fell into disrepair, despite the department providing another R30 million for machinery, construction and salaries.
A charge sheet based on alleged financial misconduct and contraventions of the Public Service Handbook for senior management was served on him in January.
Further charges were added in March for alleged irregularities relating to a R360 million tender the department awarded to billionaire Robert Gumede’s company, Gijima Holdings, in 2009.
Shabane wanted the court to stop his disciplinary hearing and to declare that Minister Gugile Nkwinti was not empowered to institute disciplinary proceedings against him.
He also wanted the minister’s decision to institute disciplinary proceedings against him declared unlawful.
Shabane maintained in court papers the minister had no legal standing to institute disciplinary proceedings against him without the approval of President Jacob Zuma, which he said was never obtained.
He also complained that he was never given a chance to state his side during the forensic investigations or before the minister suspended him.
His counsel, Smanga Sethene, argued that Shabane would suffer harm to his reputation and would have to incur needless legal costs if his “unlawful” disciplinary hearing continued. He said Shabane only turned to the court after negotiations with the department collapsed.
Counsel for the minister, Ernst van Graan, argued that this was a case of “Humpty Dumpty” who had already fallen off the wall and nothing in the world could save him.
Judge Hans Fabricius ruled that the application was not urgent and struck it off the urgent court roll with costs.
Shabane’s attorney, Mickey Mfenyana, said the ruling was just a hurdle.
Her client intended following the legal process to its full extent to stop his hearing.