ACTING Eastern Cape education superintendent-general Mthunywa Ngonzo – who replaced the controversial Modidima Mannya in May – has been linked by high-placed sources to the sinister syndicate dubbed the “Education Mafia”.
While it is not clear if Ngonzo forms part of the “Education Mafia”, five high-placed sources in the provincial department described him as the “lubricant” that oils the wheels of corruption in the department. Ngonzo is named in two SIU probes, and documents unearthed during The Herald investigation show:
- The unit has recommended that Ngonzo face disciplinary action for failing to declare his financial interests;
- The Bhisho boss ran up a R1.4-million hotel bill during his previous stint as the department’s acting deputy director-general and SG. This was between October 2008 and March 2010;
- His wife, Hombakazi, scored more than R300 000 worth of tenders from the department; and
- Ngonzo, who is the department’s accounting officer, defaulted on payments to his Standard Bank Mastercard and had R28 000 written off in December last year.
A former official in MEC Mandla Makupula’s office said: “When I asked if disciplinary action should be taken against Ngonzo, the MEC laughed and just brushed off the allegations.” He claimed Ngonzo was protected by the ANC. “Ngonzo is corrupt and uses his wife to secure tenders,” one source said.
Another said: “He is dodgy and only wants the SG job to benefit himself and his cronies. He is a corruption lubricant.”
Ngonzo said he was aware of the report. “It’s normal for someone in my position to be investigated,” he said.
He denied that he had failed to declare his interests or that it was submitted late.
“I complied with the law and submitted my interests. I don’t know when, but I did. It’s there,” he said.
Ngonzo also denied knowledge of an SIU report about his wife tendering with the department.
However, he admitted she was in business with an FET college.
“I know she supplied accommodation for a college, but I don’t know the values of the tenders you speak of,” he said.
He denied any knowledge of a corrupt clique but quickly said he was not part of it.
“I’m pretty new here, so I don’t know a lot of things,” he said. “In terms of corruption, I have my own plan of dealing with it that is being implemented. I know [corrupt] people thrive on the collapse of internal controls so we are tightening those.”
One of the first things Ngonzo did after his appointment was to reinstate suspended Queenstown district director Nkosinathi Godlo.
Godlo was suspended in January last year over a litany of charges including administrative graft involving a furniture scandal. He was reinstated – along with 39 colleagues – because proper procedures had not been followed.
The furniture scam involved a fictitious Port Elizabeth company that scored two tenders worth almost R500 000. The original contract was later chopped into two tranches of less than R250 000 each.
This ensured a paltry compliance check was followed and allowed officials to directly approach companies for quotes. Godlo signed off on the transaction. Former Queenstown education district chief financial officer Thobeka Mapanzela told The Herald she was fired after Godlo threatened to beat her up over a dodgy furniture tender.
“It was a lazy attempt at corruption,” she alleged.
Mapanzela said Godlo called her in to discuss her reluctance to sign off on the deal. “. . . He threatened to hit me if I did not agree to the quotes.”
She was later fired for hiring three interns which the department stated was not her duty.
Investigations into Godlo by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) are still ongoing, but officials are repeatedly told by other high-ranking officials in the department that Godlo has been proven innocent and the charges dropped.
Approached by The Herald, Godlo said: “I don’t want to talk about this to the media as I was investigated for it.”
Godlo’s reinstatement has sparked fear among his staff that he might erase evidence by destroying documents needed for prosecution.
Work has practically stalled in the Queenstown education district because officials linked to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union have refused to answer to him.
Upset officials took to the streets last month, which led to the education district obtaining a restraining order against them and barring the officials from the premises.
Queenstown district official and Nehawu member Nomonde Mazondwa said this was the result of constant clashes with Godlo.
Former internal audit director Mtunase Kali has also been fingered by sources as being a key player in the clique.
Kali was fired in June last year for his involvement in the misappropriation of R34-million.
Sources said Kali still used his contacts in the department to connect business associates with education officials.
An internal report found that Kali had claimed thousands of rands from the Ikhala FET College in Queenstown in 2010 after the college illegally bought a guest house for more than R2-million.
Kali formed part of the college’s financial committee and during the deal a large sum of money was deposited into his bank account.
Contacted by The Herald, Kali denied the money had ever been deposited into his bank account.
“I don’t know anything about that. What are you talking about? I don’t talk to the media,” he said.