Outgoing employment and labour director-general Thobile Lamati pulled no punches in his farewell message to staff, saying he was being crucified for trying to deliver on the government’s job mandate.
Lamati confirmed that his exit was forced by the media-driven controversy over the R5-billion job-creation deal with Thuja Capital. He said “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 plaguing the country.
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 bothered to check the feasibility of this claim.
“The investigator who was tasked to do this due diligence dismally failed to do so. Interestingly, no one has even ventured to find out whether the companies that were to provide these jobs exist or not. Instead, the media, assisted by some of our officials, felt that it was more important to character assassinate the DG for their malicious intents”.
Whistleblowing is noble but…
Lamati said that while whistleblowing was a noble effort in the fight against corruption in the public service, “it is not an opportunity for people to lie by fabricating stories about others”.
“It is even laughable that the journalist can’t even properly analyse the information given to them because they are eager to pull the trigger. Instead, they resort to creating headlines such as “midnight scramble” to sign the Thuja contract”.
He said there was no scramble to have the deal signed, as those who knew and worked with him knew that he often signed documents and issued instructions in the late hours of the day “if not the early hours of the morning”.
Lamati said the company appointed to investigate the Thuja agreement started leaking the report to the journalists “because the Department refused to appoint the firm to implement the flawed report that it produced, which presented an opportunity for them to make more money illegally”.
“So the last few weeks, we witnessed the actions of a sulky lawyer driven by greed and anger, and the prospects of siphoning money from the department diminishing right in front of his eyes. This rogue investigator started releasing confidential documents shared with him.”
Most importantly, he said, the context was twisted so that it could suit a desire for vengeance against him.
“Contrary to media headlines, I never paid R5bn or R2bn to anyone. I never coerced anyone nor instructed anyone to pay such an amount of money”.
He said that in this case, the media reported on a letter he wrote to UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping, but the writer never bothered to read the content of the letter or what it was intended for.
But why has he not responded to the damaging media statements?
Lamati said: “My standard answer to this question is simple. Firstly, over the last few weeks, if the social media stories are anything to go by, which journalists must I share my side of the story with if they are being bribed?”
Exit no admission of guilt
“Granted, not all journalists accept bribes. However, judging from the conversation that ensued after the social media expose’, some journalists, including some editors are allegedly taking bribes to wrack people’s careers”.
Lamati said he told Minister Thulas Nxesi that his resignation was not an admission of any guilt but due to concern for the image of the department.
“The bad media publicity does more harm to the department than it does to me”.
He said management should also live and die by the decisions they make, and it was the responsibility of an individual in a decision-making position to make decisions based on the information at their disposal.
He said that on October 16, his office was broken into, and that never happened in the history of the department.
“My safety and security is no longer guaranteed. I had to choose between continuing to serve the department and protecting my wellbeing. I chose the latter”.
“As I bow out, I would like to state it categorically that I leave with my head held high because of what we have accomplished as an organisation.”
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