Mr Sipho Hlomuka, MPL
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Private Bag X9078
APPARENT UNWARRANTED INTERFERENCE BY INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY LEADERSHIP IN NQUTHU LOCAL MUNICIPALITY IS THREATING ITS RUIN
1. The United Democratic Movement (UDM) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) was recently provided information from an anonymous source regarding certain oddities and alleged irregularities that have occurred at the Nquthu Local Municipality.
2. We are aware that you have made certain utterances in the media regarding the standoff and have visited Nquthu but would like to share the below information with you in the interest of finding a solution.
3. Political interference in municipal appointments
3.1. This entire hotbed of apparent irregularities and political manipulation starts with a “confidential memo”, dated 17 September 2019, wherein Inkosi RN Cebekhulu, Chairperson of the Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP) Political Oversight Committee “directs” the now former Mayor of Nquthu Local Municipality, and former Cllr Siyabonga Kunene, to make three particular staff appointments, without any motivation whatsoever. (Annexure A)
3.2. Most notably, the directive had been that Mr Sthembiso B Mthembu was to act a municipal manager for three months. The other two posts were for the positions of chief financial officer and director planning. Three critical positions in municipal management.
3.3. What allegedly had happened was that former Mayor Kunene seemingly had refused the directive, given the sequence of events.
4. The alleged ousting of Mr SM Kunene as mayor and the irregular election of Cllr IL Shabalala as new mayor
4.1. As we understand it on 18 February 2020, the now former Municipal Manager received Mr Kunene’s ostensible resignation as Mayor, from an IFP office, allegedly bearing a signature unlike that of Mr Kunene. We understand that Mr Kunene’s IFP membership was revoked in October 2020 , but the allegation that his signature might have been forged must be investigated.
4.2. Deputy Mayor Nothile Zungu would have then, de facto, become mayor in an acting capacity.
4.3. Apparently, an ordinary council meeting was apparently to be held on 24 March 2020 to consider various matters, but the Speaker, Cllr EM Mnguni, postponed that meeting to 26 March 2020 – the day the Covid-19 hard-lockdown was to start. The former Municipal Manager had allegedly advised the Speaker of this fact, but the directive had supposedly come from on high within the IFP and the main agenda item had been to elect a new mayor.
4.4. What had occurred on that fateful day appeared to be a circus, with some unhappy community involvement at Mr Kunene’s removal. As well as a cacophony of regulatory errors, which your office was seemingly made aware of, that had led to the apparent illegal and irregular election of Cllr IL (Zama) Shabalala as the new mayor. It is also alleged that senior IFP leaders, including Inkosi RN Cebekhulu, were present to oversee the events to ensure that the preferred candidate was elected.
4.5. Mr TA Mdadane, Deputy Director General Local Government Branch from your office’s Municipal Governance and Administration Business Unit, wrote to the Speaker of the Nquthu Local Municipality on the very same day, declaring a council meeting that took place on 26 March 2020 effectively null and void, thus making the election of Cllr Shabalala to the mayoral position a non-starter. (Annexure B)
4.6. What happened next is astounding, the speaker, Cllr ME Mnguni, officially wrote to the now former municipal manager, Mr BP Gumbi on 29 April 2020, and instructed him that, despite Mr Mdadane’s abovementioned directive, “… the Mayor Cllr. IL Shabalala must go on with all his office responsibilities.” (Annexure C)
4.7. Your reaction to this situation, albeit in late May 2020, to the situation where Nquthu Local Municipality had an acting mayor, in the name of Deputy Mayor Nothile Zungu and a person acting as if he is the mayor, Cllr Zama Shabalala is noted. We also noted that you “…directed the speaker to convene a council meeting, in line with the new directions of the minister, dated May 6, to elect the mayor without delay.”
4.8. As far as we understand this did not happen, nor did this happen at any of the following council meetings, one of which we understand you attended.
5. Matters coming full circle
5.1. As part of the new administration’s clean sweep, the municipal manager, chief financial officer and director planning and economic development allegedly received emails, on 3 September 2020, from Cllr Shabalala, terminating their service. This action could not have been taken by council instruction, because no council meetings had taken place and, at face value, is in contravention of our country’s labour laws.
5.2. I remind you of the content of Paragraph 3.2 of this letter, as on the very same day, the aforementioned persons were fired, 3 September, Mr SB Mthembu was appointed as acting municipal manager by the so-called mayor, Cllr Shabalala (Annexure D).
Aside from the irregular circumstances of his own appointment, his first day of work supposedly would have started (according to the appointment letter) on 4 September 2020, yet on the 3rd he managed to appoint his two subordinates Mrs NZ Mbongwa as chief financial officer (Annexure E) and Mr BB Sokhulu as director planning housing and land administration (Annexure F).
6. The implications
6.1. The Municipal Systems Act, 2000, Schedule 1, Code of Conduct for Councillors section 11, Intervention in administration, states that a councillor may not, except as provided by law –
(a) interfere in the management or administration of any department of the municipal council unless mandated by council;
(b) give or purport to give any instruction to any employee of the council except when authorised to do so;
(c) obstruct or attempt to obstruct the implementation of any decision of the council or a committee by an employee of the council; or
(d) encourage or participate in any conduct which would cause or contribute to maladministration in the council.
What happened, as described in paragraph 4.6 is a blatant and direct contravention of this Code of Conduct.
6.2. It is alleged that Cllr Shabalala had by August 2020 racked up around R1,4 million in staff appointments, vehicle expenses and fuel, security staff and their accommodation, and this whilst he is not the mayor. Those costs will by now have escalated.
6.3. The three particular appointments alone, as mentioned in paragraph 5.2, had cost the municipality R642,000 by early December. It will run into millions of Rands by 2021, as the initial acting appointments of three months have been, as far as we are aware, seemingly irregularly extended until the end of term.
6.4. Should anyone challenge the legitimacy and legality of any and all correspondence and instructions from the so-called mayor’s office, and consequently that of his appointees, they have absolutely no legal standing and may place the municipality at terrible risk.
It is almost mind boggling that this circumstance has developed, whilst the proper solution to the situation was keeping the deputy mayor as acting mayor until a new mayor could be properly elected.
7. The United Democratic Movement in KwaZulu-Natal herewith calls on you to do the right thing as the political shenanigans, up to this point, have done the people of Nquthu no favours. The following must urgently be done:
7.1. The Nquthu Local Municipality must be placed under administration.
7.2. The speaker and the acting municipal manager must be held accountable for any misspending of funds
7.3. All tenders awarded and appointments made in this time must be reviewed.
Mr Boysey Gumede
Interim Provincial Secretary
UDM in KwaZulu-Natal