Sisulu reinstates Ngobeni

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Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has reinstated her legal adviser Paul Ngobeni after she suspended him for a month, SABC news reported on Monday. Ngobeni was suspended in March for sending planning minister Trevor Manuel an open letter on a race row involving government spokesman Jimmy Manyi.

Sisulu distanced herself from the letter, saying neither she nor her office were consulted about it. She asked Ngobeni to submit written reasons within 30 days why he should not be fired as her part-time legal adviser.

The minister in a written answer to a question by Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Lindiwe Mazibuko in December 2009 said Ngobeni was remunerated “on compensation level IV. He is on R601 761 per annum (i.e. 50% or half the remuneration of a full-time Special Adviser calculated at R1 203 522/2).”

Ngobeni called Manuel a “gangster of the worst kind” in an open letter published in the Sunday Independent. Manuel, also in an open letter, had previously chastised Manyi for saying there was an “over-supply” of Coloureds in the Western Cape. In his letter Manuel called Manyi a racist of the “worst order”, a move which the ruling African National Congress criticised.

Ngobeni’s appointment as Sisulu’s legal adviser in 2009 was not without controversy — with opposition parties charging that it was part of a “pattern” of appointing Zuma’s friends, the South African Press Association reported. It was reported that he “stirred up controversy” at the University of Cape Town where he was the deputy registrar. This was due to his outspoken defence of controversial Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

United States authorities also reportedly confirmed Ngobeni was a fugitive from justice in the state of Connecticut, where he faced criminal charges, including forgery and larceny, at the time of his appointment in mid-2009.

Ngobeni was a vocal supporter of Zuma when he faced corruption charges — he wrote an open letter to Judge Arthur Chaskalson and advocate George Bizos on press statements they issued about the then-case against the president.