The ministry of human settlements, water and sanitation has released a statement in response to accusations from the Democratic Alliance (DA) that that Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu tried to “cover up” her decision to hire controversial Menzi Simelane and Mo Shaik as special advisers on top salaries.
According to the ministry, the appointment of the pair was Sisulu’s “prerogative”.
The DA accuses Sisulu of redacting the names of the pair from a response to a parliamentary question due to the outcry that followed the appointments, an allegation the ministry does not address in the statement, which only seeks to demonstrate that the appointment of the controversial pair was legally above board.
“We wish to reiterate that in terms of government rules and regulations, Members of the Executive Authority are entitled to special advisers,” the statement says. These appointments, the statement adds, “are regulated and prescribed for” in Section 12(A) of 1994’s Public Service Act.
The minister gained approval from Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu prior to the appointments, the statement adds.
According to the ministry, “the qualifications, experience and skills” of Simelane and Shaik were taken into account and they are both “suitably qualified”.
The statement says Simelane and Shaik’s responsibilities include advising the minister on her duties, “which in this case are the provision of water and decent sanitation as well as ensuring that every citizen has access to decent shelter over his or her head”.
“Minister Sisulu has utmost confidence in the abilities of her two special advisers, both of whom were appointed in terms of the applicable legislation and policies of government.”
The statement adds the DA “is aware of the applicability of Section 12(A) since some of its members hold executive positions in provincial government”.
DA MP Emma Louise Powell was “urged to familiarise herself with the applicable legislation before embarrassing her other colleagues”.
“Any attempt aimed at derailing the minister from responding to the pressing and urgent needs of our people will not succeed,” the statement concludes.
This followed a statement on Monday in which Powell said Sisulu appeared to have attempted a “cover-up” on a decision to hire Simelane and Shaik as special advisers on top salaries.
On Friday, their names had been included in a response to a parliamentary question about her ministerial appointments, but she reissued the response following widespread outcry at the news, and “subsequent to the DA having revealed the names of Sisulu’s Ministerial Office and National Rapid Response Task Team (NRRTT) staffers”, said Powell.
“Minister Sisulu’s revised response omits all names, gradings and positions of those working in both her office and those appointed to the NRRTT. As such, Simelane and Shaik’s names have been removed from information available to the public.”
She alleged that the minister was going to “great lengths to try and cover up the information her office – seemingly erroneously – released”.
The DA has since released a new statement focusing on the salaries Simelane and Shaik are receiving, which estimates the two are earning between R1,978,533 and R2.2 million, depending on where they have been graded according to the Department of Public Service and Administration’s salary scales.
This, the statement continues, means they are being paid the amount directors-general of national government departments earn, and amounts to “roughly R700,000 more than the ministry’s chief director, who holds both an honours degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economic policy.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)