But confident manager denies her mother played a role in her appointment
She is 27, studying, and has no experience working in government, and yet Lerato More-Afilaka has been appointed to one of the most senior positions in the Department of Home Affairs.
More-Afilaka started as Gauteng West area provincial manager on March 1 and, as advertised, is earning R35 600 a month.
But last week queries were submitted to parliament for Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula questioning whether More-Afilaka would cope inside one of the most challenging and troubled government departments.
More-Afilaka is responsible for regional offices in Johannesburg, Soweto and as far away as Vereeniging. District offices under her jurisdiction include Roodepoort, Sandton, Randburg and Krugersdorp.
Independent Democrats MP Vincent Gore, who authored the questions, said the ID was trying to get to the bottom of the controversial appointment.
Among the questions is a request for clarity about More-Afilaka's family connections.
"We received information of nepotism and corruption and were very concerned," Gore said. "On paper the person doesn't appear to be qualified to perform the very difficult job."
Gore added that Home Affairs could ill afford poor appointments.
More-Afilaka's mother, Johanna More, is a director in the Gauteng Health Department and is rumoured to be a friend of both Mapisa-Nqakula and one of the panel members who approved the appointment.
But Mapisa-Nqakula yesterday denied the allegations, saying she had nothing to do with More-Afilaka being hired, nor did she know her mother.
The Star has established that More-Afilaka has less than five years' professional experience. She was a broker consultant with the Liberty Group (2000/2), a financial adviser with Old Mutual (2002/3) and an accounts manager for African Impression Media (2003).
She also had a brief stint at Classic FM and was involved in a training project with the Department of Labour.
More-Afilaka is studying towards a BCom in business management, and has one course left in the degree.
The job ad, which appeared in September 2004, called for a person with "appropriate post-matric or equal qualifications and appropriate experience" and went on to request "solid knowledge in the field of immigration and asylum, and civic service matters".
Despite not meeting the criteria, More-Afilaka yesterday told The Star she was up to the challenge. She explained that the advert specifically called for young applicants as Home Affairs were "looking for someone they could grow".
"It called for people from all walks of life, and anyone who felt worthy could apply," she said.
More-Afilaka denied that her mother had played a role in her appointment.
"It is not true. My mother is not known to the minister or anyone else. I have no connections that would have helped me," she said. "If I was going to benefit, I would have benefited in the Department of Health."
More-Afilaka said she had just one semester, or course, left of her degree and had not been able to complete it because of various difficulties.
"I am up to the challenge. I want to serve my country, I want to be part of the generation that turns it around," she said.
Nkosana Sibuyi, Home Affairs' chief director of communication, defended the appointment. "More-Afilaka has quality experience to discharge the responsibilities expected of her," he said.
Sibuyi also said Home Affairs was "not aware of any family connections that played a part in her appointment".
"These perceived friendships exist in the imagination of whoever is making such an allegation, which we would like to dismiss with the contempt it deserves," he said.
More-Afilaka beat at least eight candidates to the job. Among them were men and women who had reached deputy director levels inside Home Affairs and had the university degrees to back them.
Among the reasons for her being appointed, the panel stated: "She responded well to the locality of the department's offices" (she knew where they were located) and "she said she would place suggestion boxes at the offices".
Some of the defeated candidates have allegedly complained in writing. A source close to the department fumed: "She knows nothing about Home Affairs or public administration. This is a recipe for chaos and is an example of an incompetent minister appointing an incompetent manager."
Some of More-Afilaka's duties include budgeting, allocating resources, communicating with head office, personnel issues, immigration and, most importantly, service delivery.
By Alex Eliseev The Star 06/09/06