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Charges laid after meeting to appoint acting MM

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Samwu said charges had been laid against the acting Speaker and ANC chief whip for initiating the meeting.

CRIMINAL charges have been laid after a special council meeting was convened to appoint another acting municipal manager at the Sol Plaatje Municipality last week. 

Questions were raised regarding the validity of the meeting as well as the gathering of councillors that took place on April 29, as council meetings are prohibited during the national lockdown. 

At the time, ANC chief whip Perdy van Wyk stated that Boy Dhluwayo was appointed as the new acting municipal manager, as the then acting municipal manager (Thami Mabija)’s contract could not exceed six months. 

Van Wyk stated that all social distancing was observed during the meeting. 

This is despite the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta), Bentley Vass, having extended Mabija’s contract and that of the acting chief financial officer (CFO), Zahid Cader, for a further three months during the lockdown period. 

South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) local chairperson Daily Semau said on Monday that charges were laid against the acting Speaker and ANC chief whip on May 3, for initiating the meeting. 

“In fact, all councillors who attended the meeting should be charged and arrested. The meeting was held in contravention of the Covid-19 regulations and Disaster Management Act of 2020. If we do not succeed in the Province, we will take it up nationally with the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, and President Cyril Ramaphosa. Councillors are expected to adhere to the regulations. Why should certain state officials be afforded special preference?”  

Semau added that Kenneth Samalopa was appointed as acting CFO last week. 

The DA caucus leader at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Christopher Phiri, pointed out that the local authority now has to fund the salaries of three municipal managers.

“The municipal manager, Goolam Akharwaray, has received his full salary for the duration of his suspension for the past two years. Thami Mabija was seconded to Sol Plaatje Municipality by Coghsta following the release of the Section 106 investigation report. Boy Dhluwayo was appointed during questionable proceedings in council on April 29,” said Phiri.

He added that Dhluwayo’s acting appointment would add a further financial burden on the already cash-strapped municipality.

Phiri estimated that the municipality had to foot a bill for the acting allowances every month that amounted to about R25 000 per official. 

“Akharwaray continues to receive an annual package of around R2 million. Council has an obligation to pay the two acting allowances of the officials – Mabija and Cader – who were seconded by Coghsta that amounts to about R50 000 in total. Where will the money come from to pay a third municipal manager and CFO?” 

He stated that the DA also intended to lay charges against the acting Speaker and the ANC chief whip for contravening the code of conduct and contravening the Disaster Management Act. 

“Councillors who face criminal charges should be suspended. It is only a matter of time before the municipality is placed under administration. The lockdown should be used to restore the municipality’s fiscal position. However, it appears as if some officials are eager to get their hands on the portion of the R20 billion that will be availed to municipalities for Covid-19 relief.” 

Phiri also questioned the recent appointment of 10 security officials that were apparently approved by Dhluwayo. 

“Surely his appointment should be first verified by Coghsta, as it was made in blatant disregard of the MEC for Coghsta’s decision to extend the contracts of the acting officials?” 

The chairperson of the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, has meanwhile condemned an apparent intervention that prevented the arrest of the councillors last week. 

“We call for a full investigation into the meeting that took place. Why are negotiations and interventions not conducted every time an ordinary member of the public breaks the law? While the Minister of Communications and Telecommunications, Stella Abrahams-Ndebeni, was made to pay a fine for contravening the lockdown regulations, why are certain councillors permitted to defy the law without any implications? It is sending out a wrong message to the public,” said Henderson.

He added that the civics organisation would also follow up the matter with Minister Cele regarding the flouting of Covid-19 regulations. 

“No person should be above the law.” 

Coghsta spokesperson Xhanti Teki said that the department was establishing the validity of what transpired during the council meeting. 

“Suffice to say that at this point, as per directives by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, no council meeting can convene during this lockdown period. Should a need arise for a council meeting it must be virtual, to discuss only the prevention and combating of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Teki.

The police referred media enquiries regarding two cases that were opened at the Kimberley police station to the Hawks, who in turn referred the enquiry back to the police. No response was received at the time of going to print. 

The spokesperson for the ANC Frances Baard region, Tshepo Louw, referred media enquiries to Sol Plaatje Municipality.

“The municipality should be in position to give us full details of the merits of the information aforementioned. The ANC in the region would like to once more reiterate that we should be safe by staying at home.” 

The Office of the Executive Mayor could not be reached for comment.