"There is a third force trying to drown PACOFS, and we have identified them." These are the staunch words of the CEO of the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS), Teboho Macholo, in response to the rattling incident that took place at the theatre last weekend.
Spectators, including children, bore witness to over 70 disgruntled NEHAWU members employed at the theatre storming onto two separate stages, disrupting and ultimately bringing productions to a halt during the Free State Arts Festival.
The workers were served with a court interdict which prohibits them from interrupting or intimidating any stage productions and theatre goers. The interdict ends today (July 23rd) and Macholo said they will continue the process of going to court to resolve the matter.
At the time NEHAWU chairperson Sello Rampaku explained their actions were due to them being poorly treated and having to work under unsuitable conditions.
"It came to our attention that there was some mismanagement which included corruption and fraudulent activities regarding the institution’s funds. So we took it upon ourselves to engage with the management of PACOFS, but we hit a brick wall, they don’t want to listen to us," he said.
Furthermore the theatre has been thrusted under the spotlight due to deeper reasons such as its mismanagement of funds, corruption and fraud. DA MP, Dr Gregory Allen Grootboom, posed a question in parliament to the minister of arts and culture about actions that will be taken against the centre for its non-adherence to supply chain management guidelines as per treasury regulations.
"They sent out the internal audit unit to check how we had spent the infrastructure money. We gave our comments and their report is sitting with them," Macholo explained.
His response to the persisting allegations of corruption and fraud against him were met with a straightforward instruction: those who are alleging he and his management are corrupt, must come forth with the evidence.
"Those who are alleging we did something wrong regarding the renovations of the theatre, must prove those allegations. If you don’t have proof, then you don’t have a point. PACOFS has had challenges for the past 10-15 years and this is my second year in my appointment as CEO, surely it will take me a bit longer to straighten things out," he stated.
However, Rampaku retaliated that the situation at PACOFS was "devastating and has moved from bad to worse". He went on to reveal, "As it is our duty, we had to report the matters that were happening at the centre, as we felt the activities taking place at the centre were threatening our members’ livelihood. Subsequently the CEO started threatening us that he was going to deal with those who had made fraud and corruption allegations against him, and indeed, he did.”
He confirmed that seven employees had been served with protection orders from Macholo. “We feel discipline
isn’t applied consistently by PACOFS. When you are close to the CEO nothing can ever happen to you, but
when you are a member of NEHAWU you are always targeted. The CEO was asked to leave the institute because he is not working in line with the vision and mission of the institution.”
According to the department of arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa they took a decision two months ago to investigate irregularities which were identified in the infrastructure programme at PACOFS. The investigation was conducted by the department of arts and culture’s Internal Audit Unit and the recommendations derived from it will be implemented soon.
Unfortunately no comment from the department was received by the time Courant went to print.