Thembelani Thulas Nxesi - Does This Man Deserve a Bells?
After the damning findings of the Public Protector with respect to the controversial property leases for the headquarters for the South African Police (SAPS) in Pretoria and Durban it did not come as a surprise that President Jacob Zuma sacked Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde from the Cabinet during October 2011 and appointed Thembelani Thulas Nxesi as the National Minister of Public Works on 24 October 2011.
The Minister was born in the Eastern Cape and prior to his appointment served as Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Fort Hare in 1983 and a Bachelor of Education degree from Wits and a Higher Diploma in Education from UNISA. He then entered the teaching profession at the Ikusasa Secondary School from 1985 to 1990 before becoming Head of Social Sciences department at the same school.
He then became active in the trade union movement when he served as Assistant General Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) from 1990 to 1994 becoming General Secretary of the same union in 1994. While with SADTU he served as President of Education International and Secretary of the National Education Union of South Africa (NEUSA).
Nxesi has become the latest of a long list of politicians to serve as the National Minister of Public Works With his impressive CV he was astute enough to realise and to publicly admit that there was a great deal wrong at Public Works and wide scale corruption was endemic. He was quick to rid the Department of some senior officials who in his view were considered incompetent. This drastic action was taken as result of the preliminary reports into the Department undertaken by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
The tough talking Minister thereafter embarked on a series of visits to the head and all regional offices of the Department demanding a major turnaround in operations and said everyone from head office to the regions, to the lowest worker, must be involved, because meaningful change cannot be imposed from the top down.
When visiting the regional office of the Department in Mmabatho in the North West province, the Minister indicated that it was ironic that in terms of its mandate to be the custodian of and manager of all the government's fixed assets, the Department did not have its own office but paid some R240 000 rent every month. Serious irregularities were uncovered in Johannesburg where 22 irregular leases had been uncovered. This included leases where payment for the duration of the leases, were made without the buildings being occupied.
When presenting his maiden budget vote speech in Parliament on 8 May 2012, the Minister announced that the Courts will be requested to order null and void these leases and order the arrest of implicated officials. He also said there was no quick fix with many of these leases and years of poor management, under-capacity and a lack of proper financial controls provided fertile terrain for fraud and corruption.
The Minister said that he had managed to "stop the bleeding of the Department" but it still remained in the Intensive Care Unit
Tough talk, but has the minister done enough yet to deserve a Bells?