Khusela Diko (born 1979) is a South African politician, communications strategist, and public servant. She served as the spokesperson to President Cyril Ramaphosa from March 2018 until she was suspended in July 2020.
Diko’s suspension from duty was a result of her alleged involvement in the Personal Protection Equipment tender scandal where her husband, the now late Madzikane Thandisizwe Diko, and his company, Royal Bhaca, took center stage.
Despite being placed on precautionary leave, the former presidential communication head still enjoys her affluent annual salary of R1.3 million. However, this has not gone down well with the South African public as many of them have a lot to say about it.
Khusela Diko Was Born In 1979
Khusela Diko is a South African national whose place of birth is captured as Mthatha, Eastern Cape. Though her exact date of birth has never been mentioned, the SA native was born in 1979. The daughter of Masivuye Sangoni (mother) and George Bizos (father) grew up in her place of birth alongside two siblings whose identities have never been mentioned.
While growing up in Eastern Cape, South Africa, Khusela passed through the local primary and secondary schools there. When she was done with her secondary school education, the upcoming politician proceeded to acquire higher academic qualifications at UNISA (the University of South Africa), graduating with a Bachelors’ degree in Commerce.
With a degree in Commerce, one would not expect the South African native to forge a career path in politics. However, Khusela Diko was able to pull this off and has been excelling at it for many years now. She is presently pursuing an LLB which is considered to be more fitting in the political realm. Besides, Diko’s roots have something to do with her choice to study law as both George Bizos and his big brother, Themba Sangoni, are listed among the renowned lawyers to come out of South Africa.
She Comes From A Family Of Legal Practitioners
At the peak of apartheid in South Africa, most of the activists and freedom fighters enjoyed the services of capable legal representatives who took charge of their legal issues as they arise. Among these renowned lawyers of South African origin are George Bizos (Khusela’s dad) and Themba Sangoni (her uncle). The brothers did not just represent their countrymen, they went ahead to churn out lawyers who are counted among the best legal minds in the present day SA.
George and Themba, who is a former Judge President, were involved in executing Nelson Mandela’s will. That is an inkling of the type of family Khusela Diko emanated from. Little wonder she has decided to also pursue a qualification in law.
Diko’s mum, Masivuye Sangoni, on the other hand, earned a living as a classroom teacher. As for her two siblings, their identities are not known neither are their career paths. The only known fact about them is that they were all brought up in a Christian home.
Diko Has Forged A Career in Politics
Deciding to follow a career path in politics, Khusela Diko joined South Africa’s ruling party – the African National Congress where she started serving in key positions. Her early days as a member of ANC saw the young politician serve with the party’s Treasurer General, Paul Mashatile, as his spokesperson. The ANC Youth League also enjoyed her services as their spokesperson.
Prior to her most recent appointment, Diko was part of the African National Congress’s Department of Information and Publicity, dispensing her services as their head of communications (communication manager). She held a temporary position with Government Communication and Information System as the acting director-general of its processing and dissemination unit.
In March 2018, she ascended a notch higher to serve with the current president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, as his spokesperson as well as head of communications. The exalted position comes with a cushy paycheck of R1.3 million, but her former remunerations were never mentioned. Diko maintained her position with the presidency until the PPE tender scandal which led her to be suspended.
Diko’s Alleged Involvement in the PPE Contract Saga Attracted Disciplinary Action
In 2020, a R125 million PPE (COVID-19 personal protective equipment) contract at the country’s Department of Health, Gauteng, was awarded to an SA company named Royal Bhaca. Before long, it was exposed that Royal Bhaca was in fact owned by the presidential spokesperson’s husband, Madzikane Thandisizwe Diko. This discovery put her integrity to question as the authorities probed to know how much of her influence swung the PPE tender deal into her spouses firm. Dr. Bandile Masuku – the Gauteng Health MEC, who is also their family friend, was equally implicated.
On the 11th of January 2021, news broke that the SA presidency was set to take disciplinary action against Diko. The disciplinary action allegedly followed after Khusela Diko failed to disclose each of her financial interests to SIU (Special Investigating Unit). A short while later, the female spokesperson was put on leave, which has since stretched for over six months. However, to date, the SIU is yet to establish that Diko or Masuku played any part in manipulating the tender but the inquest is still ongoing. Meanwhile, Tyrone Seale has already replaced Diko as acting presidential spokesperson working hand in hand with President Ramaphosa.
Khusela Diko Was Also Involved In A Salary Controversy
The PPE tender deals brought Khusela Diko more harm than good. Apart from being suspended as the presidential spokesperson, her position at GCIS (Government Communication and Information System) was also affected. She was formerly with GCIS’ content processing and dissemination unit as its acting deputy director-general but this position was terminated.
Talking to M&G, Phumla Williams – a government spokesperson, said Khusela’s position at GCIS died a natural death the moment she was put on special leave. According to Williams, GCIS never employed Diko, she only came on secondment as a result of a vacant post and secondments would normally fall away if a person is suspended. Going by the terms outlined by the public service regulations, secondment arrangements work on refunding whichever department employed Khusela and this was observed for the duration of time she was with GCIS. The arrangement, he said, equally fell away with her exit.
Another senior statesman, William Gumede of the University of the Witwatersrand’s school of governance, made some observations. According to him, Khusela Diko’s case exemplifies South Africa’s problem of expend billions of Rands on the paid leave of its public officials. Gumede mentioned that there are officials who receive salaries for five years or thereabouts while on special leave. Going further, Gumede stated that Diko stretched her position to the limits by taking special leave that went on for more than half a year.
Going on leave under this kind of situation would usually take three days, Gumede mentioned. He equally said that all that will be expended at the end of the day is public funds. What is reasonable is to declare investigation into the case within a month and let the public be informed of the proceedings. However, stretching to three months and above is tantamount to abuse.
The Amounts Diko Has Received as Salary Since She Went On Special Leave
Going by the content of South Africa’s Public Sector Disciplinary Code and Procedure Guidelines, putting staff on precautionary suspension is considered to be an interim measure an employer imposes on employees. It should never be regarded as a form of disciplinary sanction; rather, it is for orderly administration. Thus, it’s clarified that suspension should not be regarded in the same light as breach/infringement of employment contract as the employee is still entitled to full pay, though prevented from performing duties by the employer. The fine lines of the guideline also said that the ideal period for suspension should be 30 days and not a day longer.
Even with these guidelines in effect, Khusela Diko who has been on precautionary leave for more than six months is still enjoying a cushy paycheck which is estimated to be around R1.3 million annually. Diko, who falls into the salary category of a chief director in government, has already received above R500,000 since she embarked on her special leave.