Department of Military Veterans DG suspended

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The Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) heard this week the director-general of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) is suspended.

The announcement rates a single sentence in a Parliamentary Communications Service statement issued post the portfolio committee meeting following an introductory sentence specific to the Auditor General briefing.

Tsakani Maluleke rated first mention due to her briefing the PCDMV on “material irregularities processes at the Department of Defence (DoD) and the status of records review”.

This, in the statement, is followed by “the briefing to the committee was attended by the Minister and Deputy Minister of Defence, who informed the committee the director-general in the DMV has been suspended”.

No further mention of made of Irene Mpolweni or why she is no longer the senior public servant in office at DMV headquarters in Hatfield, Pretoria.

Her appointment was made public via a brief sentence in an April 2021 post Cabinet meeting statement. It noted as one of two appointments: “Ms Irene Nomalungelo Mpolweni as DG at the Department of Military Veterans”.

She replaced retired SA Army three-star general Derrick Mgwebi, who was acting in the DG post replacing another acting DG, Max Ozinsky.

Mpolweni’s background and qualifications are broadly managerial with stints at a provincial department of transport, chief of staff to four ministers (one of which was the then Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism where responsibilities included “agentisation of the then SA Weather Bureau, Kirstenbosch and Sea Fisheries” according to an abbreviated CV). Financial and human resource management experience includes the Department of Transport. She headed the North West Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation between 2007 and 2010.

She was part of projects with defence involvement. These were, according to the CV, “rebuilding” Mthatha airport and “repositioning” Bhisho airport as a logistic hub. An achievement she rates is her involvement with a three-year Bailey bridge programme with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DWPI) and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

There was – at the time of publishing – no media release or statement from either Minister Thandi Modise’s DoD or the DMV on the suspension or the reasons for it.