When parliament heard on Tuesday that the resignation of employment and labour director-general (DG) Thobile Lamati was subject to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s approval, minister Thulas Nxesi had long accepted his resignation letter.
Shockingly, Nxesi failed to disclose these details to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Small Business Development, Tourism, Employment, and Labour, and his opponents allege he usurped Ramaphosa’s powers and deliberately misled parliament about it.
“The minister goes and tells parliament he is waiting for the president to indicate a way forward, but he sends a letter to the DG accepting the resignation. He has no authority to do this,” said an insider.
Another critic said Nxesi’s rush to accept the resignation when he had no authority exposed that the power struggle between him and Lamati went beyond the dispute over the R5-billion job creation deal with Thuja Capital that forced Lamati’s exit.
Nxesi’s spokesperson, Sabelo Mali, said he was unable to respond to questions about the minister’s alleged conduct due to time constraints and instead preferred to share the notes he presented to parliament. Questions sent to Nxesi’s personal phone were not answered.
On Tuesday, Nxesi told the committee that Lamati’s resignation letter was sent to the presidency for confirmation, and the department did not know when Ramaphosa would attend to the matter.
“We are discussing with people in the Presidency how to move forward, but the DG has given until month-end that he is leaving,” Nxesi said.
He only disclosed that he gave Lamati a month’s special leave while the resignation was being processed.
Yet three days earlier, Nxesi, who has no powers to appoint or dismiss a DG, sent Lamati a letter titled, “Acceptance of your resignation as the director-general of the department of employment and labour”.
“Your resignation as the director-general of the department of employment and labour has been accepted. As per your request, your final day of work will be 30 November 2023. “I, however, request that your notice period be served while on special leave with pay as per the Public Service Amendment Act and related regulations.”
He agreed it was important for the executive authority and accounting officer to share the same vision for the department.
“I believe this approach will enhance the stability of the department and its entities,” he added.
Nxesi wished Lamati well on behalf of the ministry and the department and thanked him for his service.
In his farewell message to colleagues, Lamati pulled no punches, saying he was being crucified for trying to deliver on the government’s job mandate.
He confirmed his exit was forced by the media-driven controversy over the R5-billion job-creation deal with Thuja Capital and “from that time onwards, I endured a terrible time where my integrity was questioned”.
“[An] impression was created [aided by some officials whose names are known] that I approved this project with corrupt intentions.
“These accusations are made by people who, year in and year out, have failed to ensure that the unemployed, youth, women, and [the] disabled are given the opportunity to partake in economic activity,” said Lamati.
He said his critics were hiding behind policies without offering any alternative to the unemployment challenge.
He still defended the project, saying the plan offered greater prospects of job opportunities to millions of unemployed people.
“The project, unlike all the projects we ever had, had the potential to create more than 700,000 sustainable jobs.”
He said no one had bothered to check the feasibility of this claim.