Corruption and money laundering-accused Johannes Mohlala is back at work as North West education department administrator following his release on bail, ostensibly with the basic education department’s blessing.
Mohlala and two others are facing charges of contravening Section 173 of the Municipal Finance Management Act, corruption, and money laundering, in connection with the illegal investment of millions of council funds in VBS Mutual Bank.
The erstwhile municipal manager of Fetakgomo Greater Tubatse municipality in Limpopo, his former financial chief officer Tumelo Ratau, 39, as well as Kelotlhoko Property Services owner Keaobaka Kgatiteroe, 41, were on Wednesday released on R5,000 bail each by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
“He was back at work the following day, working from home, and signing off on documents and making key decisions as if nothing has happened. We were shocked, considering the fact that he is facing such serious charges,” an official told The Citizen.
After his arrest, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in a statement she had noted Mohlala’s arrest and that in view of this development, she would move swiftly to appoint another person to the position.
She announced Mohlala as North West provincial education department administrator in July 2018 as part of national intervention team deployed to stabilise the province following deteriorating governance, in the wake of violent protests for then embattled North West premier Supra Mahumapelo to go.
“At the time of appointment there were no charges levelled at him and his assumption of duty as administrator was approved at the appropriate the (sic) platforms,” Motshekga said in the statement.
Innocent until proven guilty
But despite the charges he now faces, Motshekga’s spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga confirmed that Mohlala was back at work as he has not yet been found guilty of any crime.
“He should be at work because he has not been suspended nor found guilty of any crime. If there are any developments (Motshekga) will make a public announcement about it,” he said.
There has been growing discontent with the department’s performance, with a total of R351 million unused since the department was placed under administration in 2018.
A year after the department was placed under administration, the North West Standing Committee on Provincial Public Accounts (Scopa) called on the education department to address irregular expenditure of more than R1 billion.
Fetakgomo Greater Tubatse municipality was ranked among the worst in the country between 2015 and 2017, when Mohlala was at the helm.
The municipality is currently embroiled in a record half a billion rand lawsuit instituted by an engineer for withholding payments for work done, in which Mohlala was allegedly central to.
In July 2011, Mohlala was suspended by then North West finance MEC Louisa Mabe after alleged souring relations between the two and other managers, including “unbecoming conduct”, which Mohlala vehemently denied.