Political parties in the council remain divided between the ANC and their independent comrade Thomas Mpye and the opposition front, comprising the DA, MHRF, FF+ and EFF, regarding last week’s explosive special council sitting, during which the opposition front voted for the suspension of the municipal Chief Financial Officer and the Executive Director for Infrastructure and Technical Services over possible involvement in financial and tender irregularities.
Former Speaker Mpye, the only independently elected councillor, who was ousted and replaced by the MHRF’s Thato Mathunyane after he vocally declared his allegiance to the ANC, told the Middelburg Observer that, “As a Ward 2 councillor, I appreciate the immediate implementation of the resolution (for notice of suspension) of the recent special council meeting by the municipal manager to investigate possible corruption in the municipality as we know, affects service delivery negatively.”
He added, “As the municipal manager has stated, he is still dealing with allegations, and investigations will reveal the truth, and surely justice must be done.”
The ANC was the only faction opposed to the provisional suspension of the managers who were served with intention letters last Thursday, arguing that the matter must instead first be investigated by the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC), which has, until recently, fought to establish terms of references in order for the committee to pick and choose its investigations, instead of investigating matters only referred to it by the council.
The opposition, however, argued that a recent theft at the municipal archives, and possible interference by implicated officials, necessitates the suspensions to ensure a thorough investigation.
The intention letters were issued after eight other municipal employees were suspended last Monday for the alleged involvement in an overpayment scheme, in which one employee is said to have pocketed an additional R70 000 per month, on top of his salary.
A ninth, a deceased former municipal employee, was also identified as having received monthly payments on his former payroll information.
Mayor Mhlonishwa Masilela told the paper that the ANC’s position remains such that the matter should have been investigated by the DA-chaired MPAC, after which an informed decision around suspension could be taken if recommended by the committee.
The Mayor added that the ANC’s recommendation to halt the possible suspension of two of the municipality’s top executives, including the Chief Finance Officer, whose involvement with possible financial and tender irregularities is under investigation, was denied by a council majority, comprising of a front of opposition parties.
MPAC Chairman Hennie Niemann said the committee would diligently investigate all reports once they have been finalised, and make the appropriate recommendations for remedial steps.
Mr Jomo Segage, chairperson of the Middelburg and Hendrina Residents Front, a civic organisation with the objective of safeguarding taxpayers’ money, welcomed and supported the preliminary investigations, which resulted in the suspension of eight employees.
“The MHRF will wait for reasons presented as to why the Chief Financial Officer, Mothiba Mogofe, and the Executive Director of Infrastructure and Technical Services, Reginah Makgate, should not be suspended pending the finalisation of allegations against them, and will apply our mind objectively in the interest of justice,” Mr Segage says, further urging both municipal employees and the community to let investigations run its course.
Mr Segage added that “the corruption epidemic runs very deep, but we will ensure it is uprooted”.
• Johnathan Haarhoff of the FF+ says the three-member caucus supports the provisional suspension of all implicated officials, including the managers, because “it happened on their watch and evidence has a way of disappearing”.
“If the investigations clear you, comply,” is his advice.
• The DA’s Palesa Mobango says the best decision made by the council was to appoint Municipal Manager Mandla Mnguni, “We trust that Mr Mnguni will leave no stone unturned in exposing all corruption, with a number of reports already before the council thanks to his diligence,” she said.
“It really is for the best that those implicated temporarily vacate their offices, especially in the finance department, where most of the corruption allegations seem to be centralised, and have the investigation run its course.”
The EFF’s comment was not been received before print. The party’s Zandile Ngubeni, however, earlier labelled the MPAC committee as “toothless”.