SITA appoints CEO number 19 as Mohapi bows out

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 01 Apr 2019
Dr Setumo Mohapi has been widely credited for his efforts to turn around SITA.
Dr Setumo Mohapi has been widely credited for his efforts to turn around SITA.

The State IT Agency (SITA) should continue on the path to restoration in order to become an industry leader that functions efficiently and effectively.

This is the sentiment shared by industry watchers, following CEO Dr Setumo Mohapi's departure from SITA last week.

SITA revealed that after four years at the helm, Mohapi was not staying on as chief executive, despite the board's offer to extend his contract for another six months.

Spokesperson Anthea Summers said when the contract came to an end, Mohapi asked to be released from his post, citing health reasons and demands of the job.

As of today, Nthuthule Tshenye has officially taken up the acting CEO position at SITA. He becomes the 19th CEO in the agency's 20-year history.

Lucky number 18

When Mohapi took the reins in April 2015, becoming the 18th CEO, the agency had since its establishment lacked longevity in its leadership, was plagued by allegations of corruption and labelled useless.

Prior to joining SITA, Mohapi led Sentech from November 2010 to March 2015, where he was widely credited for turning the entity around.

Having served the full four-year term of his contract, Mohapi has become SITA's longest serving chief executive.

Independent analyst Charley Lewis says one can only speculate as to the reasons behind Mohapi's resignation, but it remains essential that SITA be a clean organisation that operates with transparency and accountability.

"We sit on the cusp of the much-hyped fourth industrial revolution. The DTPS [Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services] is already committed to implementing a digitally-enabled e-government strategy. We are in dire need of digital skills across both government and in society at large.

"SITA has a key role to play in ensuring the success of those interventions. It needs a firm hand and decisive leadership."

Clean-up at work

During his time at SITA, Mohapi was vocal about legacy issues and bad practices that created a negative public perception of the government IT procurement agency.

Last year, the Daily Maverick unravelled how corruption was at the centre of contracts entered into by the South African Police Services, Forensic Data Analysts and SITA; revelations Mohapi confirmed as true.

Under the former CEO's watch, SITA initiated a clean-up exercise to root out corruption. This undertaking, which included an internal forensic investigation, unearthed large-scale corruption within the organisation's operations, Mohapi revealed at the time.

When SITA found evidence of compromised proceedings, the executive committee instituted disciplinary proceedings. This, said Mohapi, resulted in a large number of the management core leaving the organisation, with others leaving during hearing investigations.

Democratic Alliance shadow minister of telecoms and postal services Marian Shinn has described Mohapi's decision to leave SITA as a tragedy.

Shinn highlights the CEO's departure is not only a dent in SITA's progressing turnaround strategy, but in every government department that uses its services.

"The corrupt vested interests in SITA that used, and probably still do, SITA's vast IT procurement budgets to enrich themselves, have driven away a dedicated, capable, honest and brave public servant.

"Since Dr Mohapi was wrenched from Sentech, which he successfully turned around, to sort out the rot in SITA, he has been diligent in introducing management and procurement rigour into the agency with steadily improving results. He has been rewarded with death threats, as have members of the board, seemingly from those whose enrichment schemes have been threatened."

Lewis adds that based on the revelations at the Zondo Commission, SITA was yet another arena of state capture, riddled with corruption and bedevilled by tender fraud.

SITA's very structure and position makes it such an obvious opportunity for looting, he states: " was Dr Mohapi's self-avowed mission to clean up that mess at SITA, and to restore the organisation to a sound footing. It is therefore a pity that, four years into that mission, he has seen fit to step down."

New leadership

SITA confirmed it will soon initiate a process to find a permanent replacement for Mohapi, adding that Tshenye will hold the acting position until such time.

Tshenye is an executive for strategic stakeholder management at SITA, and his appointment is part of the transition to finding the agency's next chief executive, stated Summers.

According to Shinn, SITA's next CEO needs physical and mental courage, resilience, a track record of successful corporate management in hostile environments and a sound understanding of ICT capabilities and technologies.

As SITA embarks on a journey sans Mohapi, the DA MP advises the Hawks must proceed with vigour in their investigation into corruption and possible sabotage at SITA that was started last year.

"The numerous court cases that are under way implicating those involved in corrupt activities at SITA must proceed with haste," says Shinn.

"Those who have used SITA to establish their own ICT enterprises to corruptly do business with the state must be rooted out, exposed and have their day in court. If the president is determined to have a capable state based on world-class infrastructure, he must vigorously act to ensure the law-enforcement arms of government act to protect this key point."