Defence and Military Veterans minister Lindiwe Sisulu now has two policy and two special advisers.
She retained long-serving defence policy adviser Sue Rabkin, who had served former ministers Charles Nqakula and Mosiuoa Lekota on her appointment in May and recently appointed former South African Institute of Race Relations president and newspaper columnist Professor Sipho Seepe as a second, full-time adviser.
Sisulu earlier this year appointed Dr Paul Ngobeni as a Special Adviser (Part-time).
Her spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya says Ngobeni was appointed as the Minister’s legal adviser. Sisulu in a written answer to a question by Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Lindiwe Mazibuko 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).”
Her military adviser – also part-time – is former chief of defence intelligence, Lieutenant General “Mojo’ Maomela Motau (Retd) who resigned his post shortly before this April’s general election.
The Sunday Tribune newspaper yesterday reported Seepe was the latest in a “long list” of key job appointments going to those who have proved loyal to the “man from Nkandla during his wilderness years”, a reference to President Jacob Zuma.
Sisulu herself headed the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) national executive committee’s special task team set up to assist Zuma during his legal travails, which in turn brought on board the trio of Ngobeni, Seepe and Judge Willem Heath, who has since been appointed as an adviser to Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe.
Seepe confirmed to the Sunday Tribune that he was now working full time for Sisulu, after occasionally giving her advice during her previous stint as housing minister.
He insisted there was nothing strange in his leap from political analyst and president of the SA Institute for Race Relations to government adviser. “We should not be complaining all the time that the wrong people are being appointed to government,” he said.
“If there is a call, we should help. In the US, every secretary of state has advisers from Harvard. We are still far from acknowledging (the role of) expertise of scholarship.”
Unlike Seepe’s, Ngobeni’s appointment raised eyebrows. He recently left the employ of the University of Cape Town under a cloud and headed a lobby group seeking the appointment of controversial Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe as chief justice.
He is reportedly also a fugitive from justice in the United States. The State of Connecticut’s criminal justice division communications officer Mark Dupuis has stated Ngobeni had been on trial for larceny there but had absconded. Ngobeni has denied this.
The Sunday Tribune noted Motau made headlines last year when it was revealed that he had set up a group of companies while still in state employ and had failed to declare his business interests as required.
His business partners are former spy chief and ANC national executive committee member, Billy Masetlha, and the chairman of the National Assembly’s defence committee, Nyami Booi, who declared the interests in the 2009 Register of Members’ Interests published annually by Parliament.
He had also reportedly also earlier this decade ordered a military reconnaissance satellite from Russia worth at least R2 billion from Russia. Lekota cancelled the deal in 2006 or 2007 according to media reports last year.
DA MP David Maynier, who shadows Sisulu, in September asked the Public Protector, a state watchdog, to investigate Ngobeni’s announcement.
He had a tart response this morning to the appointments, saying the minister “faces enormous challenges dealing with the defence force, military veterans and the defence industry. She needs an ‘A-team’ of expert special advisers to help her succeed, not a ‘B-team’ of political cronies loyal to President Jacob Zuma.”