Investigation accuses Robben Island Museum officials of mismanagement

Robben Island Museam, where the likes of Denis Goldberg, Andrew Mlangeni, Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu and Raymond Mhlaba were imprisoned, has been mired in controversy.
Robben Island Museam, where the likes of Denis Goldberg, Andrew Mlangeni, Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu and Raymond Mhlaba were imprisoned, has been mired in controversy.
Image: Louise Gubb/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images

A probe into allegations of mismanagement at the Robben Island Museum (RIM) has accused officials at the institution of wrongdoing.

The investigation was prompted by the ex-political prisoners’ association’s claims that maladministration threatened to sink the museum.

The world heritage site — a former prison where struggle stalwarts including Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Andrew Mlangeni were held — has been at the centre of controversy for years.

Former prisoners called for a probe into alleged irregular procurement of a multimillion-rand ferry and collusion among ferry service providers, among other matters, in November 2018.

In a statement on Friday, Khensani Maluleke, the acting chair of the museum council, said investigators had provided them with a preliminary report which accused certain officials of wrongdoing. Maluleke said the probe will be completed in February.

“In November 2018, the Ex-Political Prisoners’ Association (EPPA) made certain allegations of mismanagement against Robben Island Museum,” said Maluleke.

“The RIM council resolved that its fiduciary and other statutory responsibilities required that it investigate and assess the veracity of these allegations.

“The RIM council took cognisance of the fact that an investigation of the EPPA allegations had previously been undertaken by the minister of the department of sports, arts and culture (Nathi Mthethwa).

“The RIM council’s examination and investigation of the EPPA allegations was intended to ensure that the RIM council discharged its own statutory duties.

“The RIM council accordingly requested the assistance of the (department of sports, arts and culture) to appoint independent investigators and legal advisers to conduct the investigation into these allegations, which duly occurred in accordance with its supply chain management and procurement processes.”

Maluleke said the investigators were issued with terms of reference in June.

“The investigators were required to conduct an investigation and, upon completion, provide the RIM council with legal advice and an opinion as to whether there are any prima facie grounds to take steps, disciplinary or otherwise, against any RIM official,” said Maluleke.

“The investigation of the EPPA complaints is nearing completion and the RIM council has received a preliminary report of legal advice and findings from the investigators. It is in the process of considering and studying the preliminary legal advice received.

“The preliminary report currently contemplates the possibility of taking steps against certain RIM officials. Those against whom such possible steps are contemplated have been given an opportunity to respond to the preliminary findings and make representations in relation thereto.

“Additionally, and at the same time, the RIM council is examining and investigating certain new allegations that arose during the conduct of the investigation.”

Maluleke added: “Out of respect for the investigatory process, the parties involved and the integrity of any disciplinary or other process that may follow, the RIM council has been advised not to comment any further on the preliminary findings or legal advice received. Its further communications will follow at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner in due course.”

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