MEC probes ex-Makana Director’s appointment

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The MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) in the Eastern Cape is investigating former Makana Corporate Affairs Director Nomthandazo Mazwayi’s appointment as Municipal Manager of Sakhisizwe Municipality. Mazwayi resigned from her position at Makana Municipality soon after a report to Council recommended she be placed on compulsory leave pending a disciplinary enquiry. She left earlier this month to take up her new position.

Earlier this month, Grocott’s Mail reported on Mazwayi’s surprise resignation, soon after Makana Municipal Manager Moppo Mene tabled a confidential report to a Council meeting. This was on 8 August. By 2 October, sources at Sakhisizwe Municipality, confirmed Mazwayi was “around”. Sakhisizwe’s administration centres are Cala and Eliot.

Mazwayi confirmed her resignation to Grocott’s Mail, but declined to say where she was going.

Mene said he was supposed to have made a follow-up report on Mazwayi’s proposed precautionary suspension at the next Council meeting; however, she had resigned in between meetings.

Spokesperson for Cogta in the Eastern Cape Mamkeli Ngam confirmed that the appointment is under investigation.

“We can confirm that the MEC has written to the Mayor of Sakhisizwe local municipality requesting a report on the appointment of the Municipal Manager,” Ngam told Grocott’s Mail this week. ”The Mayor has since submitted a report to this effect and [it]is under consideration by our department.”

Grocott’s Mail’s attempts to obtain comment from Sakhisizwe Mayor Buyiswa Ntsere earlier this month were unsuccessful.

The former Mayor, Siyabulela Nxozi, and Municipal Manager Dumile Mvulane were suspended in 2018, amid a struggle for control between Sakhisizwe’s two administrative centres as well as allegations of financial irregularities.

Investigations in Makana

Back in Makana, a query about the status of police investigations into various cases of alleged financial misconduct against Makana’s former Infrastructure Director Dali Mlenzana had not yet been responded to by the time of publishing. The audit report for the municipality for 2018/19 issued on 24 January 2020, states, “The South African Police Service is investigating various cases of alleged financial misconduct against a former senior manager of the municipality. At the date of this report, the investigation was still in progress.”

Municipal Manager Moppo Mene has confirmed that the report refers to Mlenzana.

Among the allegations is that Mlenzana signed off on an alleged irregular salary increase for Mazwayi during one of several periods when he was acting municipal manager. Mlenzana was placed on precautionary suspension on 25 July 2018, pending an investigation into alleged financial and administrative irregularities. The Makana Council agreed to an out-of-court settlement with lawyers for Mlenzana, who is currently the Senior Manager: Engineering Services at Raymond Mhlaba Local Municipality.

Spokesperson for the Hawks Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told Grocott’s Mail he had referred our query to the Hawks’ provincial office.

Floored

Grocott’s Mail’s attempts to obtain comment from the Sakhisizwe Mayor earlier this month were unsuccessful. Three different sources having confirmed Buyiswa Ntsere’s cellphone number, this reporter called that number.

At first, the person answering the phone confirmed it was Ntsere. When asked whether she was aware of the report to Makana Council about their new Municipal Manager regarding a proposed disciplinary enquiry, the person on the phone first said she couldn’t hear anymore. She then insisted she wasn’t the Mayor at all, but Pretty Jiyane, living in Tembisa and working for Africa Floorcare in Alrode, Alberton.

A call to the company established that this is not so.

“We don’t have such a person [i.e. Pretty Jiyane] here,” was the response from the person who answered the phone at Africa Floorcare in Alrode, Alberton.

Another municipality, another crisis

Meanwhile, the Cala University Students Association (Calusa) represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University in May 2020 requested the Premier and the Cogta MEC to intervene in the municipality by invoking Section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution by dissolving the Council and appointing an interim administration.

A month later, the Premier replied, saying the Provincial government had instead invoked Section 154, seconding a seasoned departmental official from Cogta EC to implement a turnaround plan.

In September 2020, they escalated their plea to Minister of Co-operative Governance Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa, in addition to Premier Oscar Mabuyane.

Similar to the Unemployed People’s Movement’s successful application earlier this year to have Makana put under administration, they cited a crisis within the Municipality, “emanating from maladministration and financial mismanagement and resulting in inter alia sustained poor service delivery”.

In a letter published on their website dated 9 September, Calusa challenged the Premier, saying there had been no improvement in the running of the municipality. They said the Municipality remained in serious breach of its obligations to provide basic services as a result of a crisis in its financial affairs.

“In the circumstances, we are instructed to request that the national executive intervene in the Municipality in terms of section 139(7) read with 139(5)(b) of the Constitution, by dissolving the Municipal Council and appointing an interim administrator to assume its functions,” the CALS lawyers write.

Among other points, they asked that any administrator be empowered to take action against any municipal officials who are not supporting the intervention, or who have failed to perform their constitutional and legislative duties, or are implicated in financial misconduct.

According to Calusa, since protests by residents in July 2018, the Municipality has experienced both political and administrative instability. Service delivery disruptions had resulted in raw sewage flowing through the streets of the towns of Cala and Elliot, streets are in a state of disrepair and burst pipes not being repaired.

Municipal projects left unfinished included the paving of roads, the installation of a sanitation plant, the construction of a sports field in Elliot, and the reticulation of the sewerage line. Various allegations of misappropriation of funds had been levelled against the former Municipal Manager, who remained on suspension until 28 January 2020.

Sakihisizwe’s former Mayor and Municipal Manager were suspended in November 2018. Accordiing to Calusa’s documents, a vacancy announcement for the position of Municipal Manager was published in mid-2020.

“We continue to consider this matter to be urgent, and accordingly request that you respond hereto within 30 (thirty) days, namely by close of business on Friday 9 October 2020,” writes CALS Attorney Ariella Scher. “Should we not receive a response by then, we are instructed to apply for a court-ordered intervention in the form of the dissolution of the Municipal Council and the appointment of an interim administrator.”

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