Damning correspondence between senior Northern Alliance (NA) politicians has revealed that NMB Executive Mayor Gary van Niekerk knew then suspended EDTA boss, Anele Qaba, was going to apply for the position of Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) CEO.
The correspondence, leaked to the Democratic Alliance (DA), provides new context to why Van Niekerk, then Speaker, was the lead instigator in seeking a settlement for Qaba, instead of pursuing disciplinary processes. It also raises serious concerns regarding political interference in administrative processes, with Van Niekerk, NA Secretary General, Vasu Padayachee, and NA Councillor Stag Mitchell intimating that the MBDA appointment process could be influenced.
The text conversations, which took place on 8 January 2023, starts with Allister Makomo, a NA Federal Executive member, posting the CEO advertisement, before indicating that he is going to apply. Padayachee, who now serves as the mayor’s chief of staff, responds “Morning NT. Noted. Anele will also apply for this post”- referring to Qaba. This is tangible proof that Van Niekerk and other political office bearers from the NA knew that Qaba would apply for the position of MBDA CEO, before they began pushing for the settlement agreement.
Another NA party member, and now close protection officer of Van Niekerk, Vernon Oliphant, then comments: “So leadership we must promote our own, if all requirements are met…” with Makomo responding that “I expect my party to back me when it comes to things like this”. Padayachee then asks what the nature of Makomo’s relationship with the chairperson of the board is. This is an extremely concerning response, insinuating that a prospective candidate with a close relationship with the chairperson, in this case Glenda Perumal, will have a better chance of being appointed.
Councillor Mitchell joins the discussion, voicing his support for Makomo: “100000000% behind your application Allister. I also know Glenda and wil (sic) make an (sic) special effort Served with her in the ANC”. His message reveals a will to politically interfere in an administrative process by ostensibly attempting to influence Perumal. Van Niekerk adds his voice, saying: “I actually recruited Glenda. But you and I (sic) will have a one on one re this.”
This startling revelation intimates a close relationship between Van Niekerk and Perumal, and that he seemingly has influence over her. If true, there is also a likelihood that Van Niekerk could have pressurised Perumal to appoint his friend Qaba to the position.
These messages are damning evidence that there was, at the very least, attempts to politically interfere in the appointment processes for the position of MBDA CEO. That Van Niekerk knew that Qaba wanted to apply for the position of CEO whilst he was still facing serious disciplinary charges is particularly concerning.
What exactly is the nature of the relationship between Van Niekerk and Qaba? Did Van Niekerk withhold critical information from Council to pave the way for Qaba’s new position within the administration? Did Van Niekerk organize the job for Qaba – a close friend that attended Van Niekerk’s 50th birthday celebrations in February this year?
It is the residents of Nelson Mandela Bay that suffer the consequences. Hundreds of millions of rands are already being withheld by National Treasury over Qaba’s appointment. RDP houses, roads, water, sanitation, and electrical infrastructure projects are already grinding to a halt and will remain stalled until this impasse is resolved.
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