Why Bongani Mabaso quit as SITA boss

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 12 Dec 2023
Dr Bongani Mabaso, outgoing SITA CEO.
Dr Bongani Mabaso, outgoing SITA CEO.

Dr Bongani Mabaso, CEO of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), resigned due to squabbles with the board, according to insiders.

Mabaso, who resigned on Friday, voiced concerns about his work with the board as early as September in a letter seen by ITWeb, in which he listed conditions that he said rendered his management executive team ineffective.

Senior sources within the board and management independently corroborated the contents of the letter, alleging this led to his resignation from SITA, as his concerns didn’t “receive the attention required”.

These issues, Mabaso told the board, had a negative impact on the top management team's ability to “exercise its duties”.

However, SITA head of corporate affairs Tlali Tlali told ITWeb yesterday: “The board received correspondence from Dr Mabaso which raised a number of concerns and those received attention and were resolved.

“As indicated in the response above, the matters raised by Dr Mabaso received the attention of the board and were resolved. This means, action was taken.”

Asked to confirm if these concerns were the reasons for his departure, Tlali said: “We issued a media statement last week on Friday and indicated the reasons for his departure in that media statement.”

In a statement on Friday, SITA said the CEO indicated the desire to pursue interests elsewhere, aligned with his career direction and growth. “The board respects the choice and decision Dr Mabaso has made.”

Mabaso could not be reached to comment on his resignation by the time of publication.

The departing Mabaso is now serving his notice and will leave SITA at the end of the year.

He began working for the government agency on 1 April and had a five-year contract that will now expire in less than a year.

According to the letter he sent to the SITA board in September, which ITWeb authenticated with senior sources, he wrote to the board chairperson, claiming unnamed board members were directly engaging with SITA clients on operations matters.

He described this as a “lapse of good governance by the board members, which ultimately contributes to the SITA management inability to discharge its fiduciary responsibilities”.

Mabaso also brought up “accountability, good governance and trust”, stating: “Where the board of directors of SITA has delegated responsibilities to a managing director or senior executive, to manage and direct the day-to-day affairs of SITA, the board of directors should be content that the person appointed will do their job diligently, and in the best interests of SITA.

“Further, these matters, of a board member performing micromanagement, undermines the role of the managing director, senior executives, management and organisational staff, including organisational performance and accountability.”

In addition, he bemoaned “professionalism in and out of board meetings”, saying he has struggled to fill key executive positions due to a lack of support from the board.

Mabaso highlighted this issue during an interview with ITWeb earlier this year.

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, which is responsible for SITA, confirmed receiving ITWeb’s request for comment on the matter yesterday, but has not responded. It also did not supply comment after follow-up requests today.

“I am currently in a meeting but I have received your request from my colleague and I am busy with it. I will come back to you as soon as the response is done,” said a senior communications officer in the department.