Gauteng Premier David Makhura has defended his decision to appoint former MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi at the provincial Treasury, saying he was the most senior ANC leader in the province and a crusader against corruption.
Makhura is facing intense criticism for moving Lesufi from Education to Finance and e-Government, with many parents and education experts voicing their dissatisfaction on Twitter at the news that he would be changing portfolios.
The appointment of Lesufi, who holds a Masters in Business Administration, puts him firmly in charge of a total provincial budget of over R132-billion.
Lesufi, a close ally of Makhura, was elected in 2014 as the member of the Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee of the ANC, and was also elected Deputy President of the African National Congress in Gauteng during last year’s elective provincial conference.
“I wanted somebody who is senior for this position, somebody who wouldn’t be easily swayed by other MEC, chief financial officers (CFOs), heads of departments (HODs) and other government administrators. That person is Panyaza Lesufi,” said Makhura
“Finances are the lifeblood of any government. You need to run your finances properly. I also wanted someone who could clampdown on corruption and introduce clean governance.”
Makhura said he wanted Lesufi at Treasury mainly to drive the province’s roll-out of e-Government, which is aimed at the creation of a digitized document management systems at all government offices.
In his portfolio as MEC for Education in Gauteng, Lesufi was at the forefront of introducing the digital revolution in the transformation of education and township schools, introducing tablets to learners, digital classrooms and the online learner admission system at schools.
“I like what he did at the Education department. He did a great job. He leaves a great team behind though. I have confidence in the new MEC of Education Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko. I am sure she will reach even greater heights. But who knows? If I am persuaded enough I might change my mind in the near future and take him [Lesufi] back to education. I am still applying my mind,” said Makhura.
“Lesufi will also play a critical on the roll-out of e-Government in Gauteng. We want people to access their services in their homes and on their phones. You don’t have to stand in a long queue to get government services anymore. Lesufi will be responsible to turn things around in this respect.”
All Gauteng MEC-designates were sworn in on Thursday at Emoyeni Conference Centre in Parktown, Johannesburg.
The ceremony was presided over by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo of the Gauteng Division of the South African High Court.
After the formal proceedings, MECs took portrait photos with Makhura, before being treated with high tea and snacks, including a sumptuous lunch of beef stew, chicken, pan-fried fillets of sea bass with creamed fennel and all things sweet.
Makhura’s new executive council included, among others, Lesufi as MEC for Finance and e-Government; Jacob Mamabolo as MEC for Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure’ Lebogang Maile as MEC for Human Settlements, Urban Planning and COGTA; Tasneem Motara as the MEC for Infrastructure Development and Property Management; Kgosientsho Ramakgopa as MEC for Economic Development, Agriculture and Environment; and Faith Mazibuko as the MEC for Community Safety and Security.
“We have a great team to strengthen the work of delivery. This team we are unveiling today is not people who were hand-picked arbitrarily. They bring what we didn’t have – fresh energy and ideas. Things must change. Things will change. No complacency will be tolerated,” Makhura said.
“I would like to remind you that public office is about working hard and smart to meet the needs, expectations and realising aspirations of the citizens and residents of our province. Let us remember that we are not servants of the people, not the celebrities. We must carry ourselves with utmost humility and impeccable integrity at all times.”
Responding to questions about the scrapping of e-tolls, Makhura said the provincial government was still in talks with President Cyril Ramaphosa on how to go about the issue.
“E-tolls are not off my agenda,” said Makhura.
“We have done a lot with president Ramaphosa on this issue. I know people are saying it’s taking forever but I am confident we will look at a future without e-tolls in Gauteng. Urban e-tolling cannot work. Tolling roads in Gauteng creates a big problem for our people. The costs is enormous … Our new MEC for Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo will be seized with this task immediately.”