High court overturns Gungubele’s axeing of Sita board

Mondli Gungubele. Image: GCIS

The high court in Pretoria has overturned the July 2023 decision by communications minister Mondli Gungubele to fire and replace the board of the State IT Agency (Sita).

The court ordered that the current board, appointed on 21 July last year on an interim basis, be suspended and the previous board be reinstated. The matter was brought by Makano Mosidi, Rendani Ramabulani and Olwethu Ketsekile, all of whom had been among the board members dismissed.

“I have seriously considered the submissions made by both counsel for the applicants and the respondents. I am convinced that the balance of convenience favours the applicants,” justice AJ Yende said in his judgment. “I found that a proper and strong case has been made out for the relief sought.”

As first respondent in the matter, Gungubele presented as the main point of his case that his decision to axe the Sita board was to hold them accountable for “unlawful action”.

According to Gungubele, the board “unilaterally” decided to raise the salary offered to incoming CEO Bongani Andy Mabaso – who recently resigned and went back to the private sector as group chief technology officer of JSE-listed Altron – by R1-million without consulting him. This consultation, he said, is required under Sita’s memorandum of incorporation.

This is despite the board’s November 2022 recommendation of Mabaso for the CEO position at a salary of R3.5-million/year. Mabaso was actually offered R4.5-million, according to the court papers.

“A violation of a memorandum of incorporation is a misconduct that has serious implications for the standing of the board of directors in their professional careers, even beyond their tenure as board members of Sita,” said Gungubele.

Costs

Approval for the increase to Mabaso’s offer was meant to be approved in writing by Gungubele’s predecessor, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, who said the “failure to seek cabinet concurrence on the revised or negotiated salary offer of R4.5-million is absolutely my mistake as the then minister responsible”. Gungubele noted that the former minister’s admission did not absolve the board of its duty.

Justice Yende noted that although it is within a minister’s power to appoint and terminate board members in terms of the Sita Act, he could not do so without consulting his cabinet colleagues.

Read: Ex-Sita CEO Bongani Mabaso joins Altron as group CTO

The order by the judge will stand until a final ruling is given pending the conclusion of the second part of the case (referred to in the court order as “part B”). Taxpayers, meanwhile, face a mounting legal bill over the dispute: Gungubele has been ordered to pay the cost of the application.  – © 2024 NewsCentral Media

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Source: techcentral.co.za