CoGTA says Mndebele’s termination may not be legally sound

The department has now intervened

The Mpumalanga Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) has taken note of the Govan Mbeki Municipality’s council decision to terminate Mr Felani Mndebele’s contract as municipal manager.

The department has now intervened in good faith to mediate between the two parties in order to reach an amicable solution and mutual agreement.

The department noted that the abrupt termination of the contract may not be legally sound, but prompting to provoke further legal battles at the expense of taxpayers.

“CoGTA said the council has acted on the advise that was given to them to reconsider its decision in this regard and to follow a more suitable alternative through a mutual agreement between the parties.

CoGTA also said an update shall be made in due course,” said Ms Lindiwe Msibi, CoGTA spokesperson.

Mr Felani Mndebele’s employment contract was terminated after an extended court battle.

The council took this decision at a special virtual council meeting held on Friday, July 16.

Mr Mndebele had been placed on precautionary suspension with full pay as recommended by the former Govan Mbeki executive mayor, Ms Thandi Ngxonono, who accused him and his officials of negligence in failing to deliver services to residents.

Mr Mndebele disputed the suspension and took GMM to court.

There were also allegations made that Mr Mndebele and his officials failed to deliver services to residents due to negligence, such as daily load-shedding, no removal of refuse and a serious backlog on most of the services that the municipality is supposed to deliver to the people.

Ms Lizzy Shabalala was in the meantime, appointed as the acting municipal manager.

The Middelburg High Court ruled that Mr Mndebele had been unlawfully suspended and that the proceedings instituted against him on October 16 last year, were unlawful.

GMM and its presiding officer (second respondent) were ordered to pay Mr Mndebele’s legal costs, but the municipal leaders decided to appeal the court’s ruling.

The High Court in Middelburg then dismissed GMM’s leave to appeal against Mr Mndebele with cost.

That was, however, not the end of the battle. When Mr Mndebele tried to return to his job, he was again given the boot.

The Govan Mbeki Municipality’s executive mayor, Mr Nlakanipho Zuma, told Ridge Times that Mr Mndebele was still suspended pending his case and the municipality was complying with the High Court’s decision to charge him correctly.

This means that they charged Mr Mndebele with a 2014 regulation, not the 2010 regulation.

The council then sent Mr Zuma to Mr Mndebele with a settlement proposal to leave the municipality, but it was rejected on July 14.

Mr Mndebele’s lawyers wrote a letter to Mr Zuma in which he rejected the proposal.

It was also stated that Mr Mndebele no longer wished to participate in any further settlement negotiations with the municipality and that as far as they are concerned, there is nothing that prevents their client (Mr Mndebele) from returning to work.

They said Mr Mndebele would report for duty on Monday, July 19, and in the event that the municipality prevents or obstructs such an event, the municipality and its officials will be held in contempt of court.

They also have instructions to sue the municipality to compensate their client for the losses he incurred as a result of a breach of contract, including all legal fees incurred by their client.

This currently amounts to about R2-million. The council however, still decided during an extraordinary virtual council meeting on July 16 to fire Mr Mndebele.

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