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MBABANE – There are questions on the credibility of evidence given by an acting judge of the High Court during a disciplinary hearing that led to the dismissal of a senior manager at RSTP.

This evidence was delivered in the case of Mfanzile Shongwe, who has since been fired as Chief Operations Officer (COO) at the Royal Science and Technology Park (RSTP), which is a Category A public enterprise that falls under the Ministry of Information Communications and Technology (ICT). The Acting High Court Judge is Absalom Makhanya and he was engaged by RSTP to investigate the leaking of information pertaining to the internal operations of the institution. At the time he was engaged, Makhanya was Principal Crown Counsel in the Director of Public Prosecution’s Office.

However, his evidence is now being highly disputed by a former Member of Parliament (MP) who Makhanya claimed to have interviewed and received confirmation from that Shongwe was the source of the leak. Shongwe was the COO until he was fired for allegedly spreading information on alleged looting that was taking place at the public enterprise. Before being fired on October 7, 2022, Shongwe, who was second in command at RSTP, had been put on suspension since September 9, 2019. He was then charged with two counts: The first charge was that he allegedly brought the name of the organisation into disrepute and or scandalising senior personnel by either generating or receiving and distributing or being in unexplained possession of a defamatory document labelled ‘widespread looting at RSTP’.

Secondly, he allegedly, while on an official trip to India in or about March 2019, engaged in a conversation with the then Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of ICT, Maxwell Masuku, to whom he made false allegations against one of the senior personnel by alleging that the said individual, among other things, was siphoning money out of the organisation and or had been wrongfully protecting a junior employee who did not qualify for the position and or that the senior personnel was using the organisation’s funds wrongfully for the benefit of the said officer.


Shongwe was alleged to have been behind a document that had the word ‘INYANDZALEYO’ (in upper case), which contained the allegations against the one senior officer and others.
He was alleged to have not only shared this document with a number of people, including MPs whom he reportedly wanted to move a motion in Parliament regarding what was happening at RSTP, but also held meetings with these people to verbally relate to them the internal operations at the institution. Makhanya told the disciplinary hearing, which was chaired by Senior Attorney Hasso Magagula, with another senior Lawyer Musa Sibandze as the initiator, that former Shiselweni II MP Mthokozisi Kunene outlined to him during a face-to-face session held in Mbabane that Shongwe was an aggrieved person who brought to him a number of allegations on corruption that was taking place at RSTP.

The Times SUNDAY has seen the document which Makhanya compiled after concluding his investigation and he submitted this to the disciplinary committee, which asked him to read into the record the part on Shongwe. This is what Makhanya told the committee: “Mr Kunene asked for transparency in order to be interviewed. The mandate and terms of reference were shown to him as requested. According to him there were a number of individuals from RSTP that approached him requesting him to move a motion in Parliament which would investigate corrupt activities in the organisation.  Mfanzile Shongwe - he was aggrieved and made the following allegations; (the allegations cannot be repeated because when quoted verbatim they will identify the individuals yet this is defamatory against them).”

Makhanya told the committee that according to the former MP, the meetings were arranged in a professional manner. Some meetings were held at the Chinese restaurant that is at Gables, Ezulwini. “These sessions were conducted in the private compartment that is inside the restaurant. Other meetings were held at the Ezulwini Sun. He further stated that these individuals even sent him emails that would substantiate the above information. He promised to bring the copies of the emails the next day. Efforts to meet him again were made and proved futile as he wasn’t picking up my calls and not even responding to text messages sent to him,” he said.


However, Kunene has denied ever giving Makhanya this information.  Relating his side, the former MP said he was called by Makhanya and they met at the car park outside Spar Supermarket in Mbabane where he was shown a letter that mandated the latter to investigate the RSTP matter. “I told him that a lot of people had called me regarding the matter and these included a former Cabinet minister who took me to Galito’s in Manzini, where he bought me food while trying to siphon information from me on who my source was regarding the RSTP issue. I flatly refused to give him the information. I even did the same with Makhanya. I was even called by someone from emalawini, who asked me to help them with the information and I told the person that I would not divulge the information,” said the ex-legislator.    

He swore to the Times SUNDAY that the informer who gave them the dirt on RSTP called him and another former MP (name withheld) to his office and the source took them from A to Z about what was happening at the public enterprise. “The informer told us that he used to work at RSTP but was removed and transferred to another government department. It was not Mfanzile Shongwe; I don’t know him, this Mfanzile,” Kunene said. He asked this publication to assist him in taking on the acting judge and said he was ready to answer for himself regarding the evidence that was purportedly sourced from him.


“Even if they can bring him (Makhanya) in front of me, I can tell him in the face that I never gave him this information. I refused to give this information to the former minister, who was my colleague in Parliament, how much more to him? I could have been tempted by the former minister’s Galito’s meeting to tell him the information but Makhanya did not even buy me the Galito’s and did not offer any money to entice me, so why would I have told him this?” wondered the former legislator. He said what he remembered was that Makhanya mentioned to him the name of a person who he wanted him to talk about. Kunene alleged that  Makhanya had leading questions that sought to implicate this person. “Unfortunately, that was not the person who gave us the information and I have never met with him and I have never even met this Mfanzile. I am sure this Mfanzile would even be surprised where we even met,” said the ex-MP.

He insisted that this matter needed to be challenged and dealt with to finality and that he was not afraid of anyone at RSTP. “We received information from someone and wanted to move a motion in Parliament using that information but we eventually decided to abandon that motion. This was because we realised that this informer was aggrieved and was using us to fight his personal battles. The fact that he said he had been redeployed and felt that had been dumped made us realise that he was an aggrieved person and could feed us wrong information,” he said. Kunene said the informer gave them documents that implicated other politicians and individuals, but they decided not to involve themselves in the mess, hence they abandoned the motion.


“Why is that when someone like Makhanya gives evidence in such cases, the person whom he cites is not called to corroborate what he is saying? I should have been summoned by the disciplinary committee to verify if indeed what Makhanya submitted was true and had come from me. It pains me that this Mfanzile has now been fired based on false evidence,” said the ex-MP. Kunene’s reaction was shared with Makhanya by this publication through a questionnaire that was sent to him via WhatsApp. The acting judge read the WhatsApp message but did not respond to it and was then called on his mobile phone but he refused to entertain the questions. “Sorry, I don’t have the time. There is nothing I can talk to you about. Sorry, I cannot talk to you,” he said.

His attention was drawn to the fact that the blue ticks on the WhatsApp message showed that he had read the questionnaire and therefore could he have responses to the questions. To this, he responded: “I don’t have any interest in it. I just saw a message and I don’t have an interest, sorry.” The acting judge’s evidence is not the only piece of information submitted before the disciplinary committee against Shongwe that was questionable but was overlooked. Another high-profile person to give evidence was the then former PS in the Ministry of ICT, Maxwell Masuku, to whom Shongwe was alleged to have detailed how money was being siphoned at RSTP. Masuku said Shongwe told him this information while they were at a hotel in India where they had gone to familiarise themselves on what a RSTP was about.

The then PS said he remembered clearly that the conversation happened in the same hotel which RSTP had booked the delegation in and that this was his first trip to India. He even remembered the hotel and the people who were in the delegation. But it was brought to his attention by Shongwe, during cross examination, that the latter was not part of that trip. Evidence was presented that the time that Masuku was in India with Shongwe they slept in different hotels from that of the ex-PS. It was also brought to his attention that the purpose of that trip was not to familiarise themselves about RSTP but was to attend a conference of the EXIM Bank on India-Africa Project Partnership. An application was then made by Shongwe to allow those employees who formed part of the trip to India to be also cross-examined, but this application was rejected. In his recommendation, the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing described Masuku as a credible witness beyond doubt, ‘in particular the conversation he had with Mr. Shongwe with regards to the complaints on money siphoning that was taking place at RSTP.


Despite that the trip the ex-PS referred to was not the one Shongwe was a part of, the chairperson said: “To suggest that the mixing of dates on the trips to India is material, is clearly a deviation by the employee from the real merits of the issue which is the conversations that were married to the leaked document.” There was also another piece of evidence – a forensic report by KPMG – that did not find proof of the said document with the word ‘INYANDZALEYO’ as having been written from Shongwe’s laptop. KPMG was appointed by Musa Sibandze Attorneys to provide forensic technology services relating to forensically image a laptop computer, as identified by Sibandze Attorneys, and identifying the following regarding a document specified by Sibandze Attorneys: Presence of document on the laptop computer; verify if the identified document originated from the imaged laptop computer; and retrieve document if deleted from imaged computer, where available.

KPMG said it performed three processes: Acquisition; image processing; and data analysis and presentation. The imaging process was conducted at KPMG offices at Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa. After performing analysis, KPMG read this conclusion: “We cannot determine the specified document was originated from the laptop computer in question; and we cannot confirm that the word ‘Inyandzaleyo’, which was identified from the laptop computer image, was part of the content of the specified document.” However, despite that the KPMG report cleared Shongwe, this appears to have done him no favour as the report of one Shadrack Dlamini, an employee of RSTP, was considered. Shadrack presented his own report after he was asked to assist in the process of laptop auditing, which was to conduct digital forensics based on suspicion of continuous leakage of sensitive information pertaining to RSTP operations.

He said he conducted forensic audit of about five laptops and discovered that an HP laptop, allocated and used by Shongwe, had a hit of a word contained in the leaked information that was trending on social media. “The word ‘Inyandzaleyo’ was discovered after conducting a window search. Window search allows the user to match list of words that were done in folders/files contained in a computer. I conducted an analysis with Easy US Data Discovery trying to find deleted files. The intention was to identify deleted files which might have similar contents as contained in the media circulating document,” (sic) he wrote in his report that has been seen by this publication. The glaring difference was that the word ‘INYANDZALEYO’ as contained in the circulating document was in uppercase yet the one that Shadrack claimed to have found in the laptop was in lowercase (‘Inyandzaleyo’). This then put into question the source of the document.


In his recommendation, the chairperson wrote: “The conduct of the employee herein in publishing such document was calculated at scandalising the organisation, to the extent that senior personnel of the organisation’s reputations were tarnished in the process. Such conduct was reckless by the employee and/or calculated to achieve such mischievous end, in circumstances where proper structures for the ventilation of issues and/or grievances were there for him to explore and exercise. He chose not to exercise those platforms if there were genuine issues within the organisation that needed serious attention.” RSTP Board Chairman Sthofeni Ginindza, said he was not aware of the disciplinary hearing against Shongwe and its outcome.
“Ordinarily, as the Board, we should have been told about this, especially because the person involved holds a senior position that is at executive level. It is quite concerning that this was never communicated to us,” he said.

Ginindza said even though he was not aware of the merits of the matter, but he believed that whistleblowers should always be given an ear instead of victimising them. “I will definitely take this matter up and engage Shongwe as well as the RSTP management to be appraised of what happened,” he added. Ginindza was appointed in October 2020 to head the RSTP Board, after he had just finalised his term of office in a similar position at the Eswatini Electricity Company (ECC). At EEC, he found the public enterprise running on a bank overdraft but by the time left it was recording profits in millions of Emalangeni. He even instituted a forensic investigation that unearthed a lot of malpractices in the issuing of tenders and the listing of suppliers.

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