Inside the Mpumalanga agricultural war

Inside the Mpumalanga agricultural war
FARMERS-IN-CHIEF: As the ANC's internal elective conference nears, Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane is flexing her muscle to have the final say in her government using President Cyril Ramaphosa's ticket of anti-corruption to fire her opponents. PICTURE BY 013NEWS

Department of agriculture’s Head of Department and Premier go to court to sue former CFO R4-million as Hawks probe former CFO for corruption.

Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane seems to have won a major battle for control of a department that was run by her rival suspended MEC Mandla Msibi as ANC factions go to war to gain control of strategic positions in her government ahead of the party’s 13th provincial elective conference.

Mtshweni-Tsipane late last year suspended her rival and Mbombela ANC strongman Mandla Msibi as the MEC of the Mpumalanga agricultural department after Msibi was arrested and charged with murder.

Since then Mtshweni-Tsipane has moved to put her ally and ANCWL provincial convener, Busi Shiba, as the department’s acting MEC.

ALSO SEE: Mandla Ndlovu and Refilwe Tsipane fight to control Mpumalanga

Back in September 2020, the department’s head Lucky Monareng died after a short illness, leading to the appointment of former co-operative governance departmental head Cain Chunda as the new agricultural department’s HOD last year.

Chunda is a close ally of Mtshweni-Tsipane – but internal battles last month led to Chunda firing the department’s chief financial officer, Andries Letswalo, an ally of Msibi for spreading a defamatory letter that claimed both Chunda and Mtshweni-Tsipane are corrupt and had squandered over R90-Million in the Greening Badplaas Project, an allegation which has been proven to be a desperate lie as internal documents which 013NEWS has seen, showed that only R34-million has been spent so far in the Badplaas farming project.

Mpumalanga agricultural department acting MEC Busi Shiba
Mpumalanga agricultural department acting MEC Busi Shiba, who is also the MEC of co-operative governance and traditional affairs. PIC BY MPU Gov

Zanele Mabaso has now been announced as the new CFO of the department after Letswalo was dismissed without a disciplinary hearing owing to the “seriousness” of the misconduct with which he faced.

“The CFO was dismissed on account of misconduct,” departmental spokeswoman Zanele Shabangu said. “He used unauthorised anonymous and pseudonymous addresses for electronic emails and he altered the emails with an intention to deceive,” Shabangu said.

Former agricultural department CFO Andries Letswalo
Former agricultural department CFO Andries Letswalo was fired on 20 January 2022. PIC by 013NEWS

Another of Letswalo’s allies, departmental Chief Director Israel Silinda was found guilty by a disciplinary hearing a week ago over the letter that Letswalo allegedly drafted and which was then sent to Silinda to spread it over to people, including to Msibi, the investigation has shown and also for allegedly lying that Chunda had given a Mr J Mndawe a written warning when that is not true, the department has said.

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Mtshweni-Tsipane is gunning for the position of ANC provincial chairperson. Other contestants for the position are the party’s acting chair Mandla Ndlovu, deputy director-general Peter Nyoni and Nkangala district municipality’s Lucky Ndinisa.

ALSO SEE: DD Mabuza loses major Mpumalanga councilor battle

Mtshweni-Tsipane and Nyoni are aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa while Ndlovu is aligned to suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule and Ndinisa to deputy president David Mabuza.

Mabuza has lost much of the support in Mpumalanga and recently lost a councillor candidates battle to Ndlovu’s faction after the faction successfully installed mayors in most of the province’s municipalities during the November 2021 local government elections.

Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane
Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane who is in a major battle for control of Mpumalanga. PIC by OTP

Last month an internal letter leaked to the media said investigators went through Letswalo’s government email “as there was suspicion that Letswalo was bitter and was trying to bring instability in the department as the Chief Financial Officer for the final ends of serving factional ANC battles” and discovered that he was in fact the man who drafted the now infamous ‘Agri Looting’ document in which Chunda was allegedly being defamed as a corrupt man.

ALSO SEE: Peter Nyoni: “Time to unite is now”

Mpumalanga agriculture department's HOD Cain Chunda
Mpumalanga agriculture department’s HOD Cain Chunda is Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane’s ally. PIC by 013NEWS

013NEWS has learnt that part of the squabbles between Chunda and Letswalo was that Letswalo was refusing to acknowledge Shiba as the acting MEC but the department says they will not respond to the reports as they have “no knowledge of that”. 

This week Letswalo was served with court papers by lawyers of Mtshweni-Tsipane and Chunda, suing him R4-million for the letter that Letswalo allegedly created.

The department has also asked the Hawks to nail Letswalo over corruption allegations stemming from a R1.2 million that was allegedly deposited into the account of an individual under his watch as the CFO.

The money had been generated from the sale of cattle in Ermelo and was supposed to be deposited into the government’s bank account.

(edited by ZK)

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