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‘Heads expected to roll’

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“It has hardly been a month since the ANC celebrations in Kimberley and we should be focusing on service delivery and not internal politicking”

THE CITY is sitting on tenterhooks this morning with rumours that “heads are expected to roll” at today’s informal city council meeting.

The council meeting was due to take place yesterday but was cancelled.

It is believed that former executive mayor and now ANC Frances Baard regional chairperson Managaliso Matika is behind a move to reinstate the suspended municipal manager, Goolam Akharwaray, and chief financial officer, Lydia Mahloko, and remove the current executive mayor, Patrick Mabilo.

One of the items on the agenda for today’s meeting is believed to be the expiry of the contracts with the acting municipal manager (MM), Thami Mabija, and acting chief financial officer (CFO), Zahid Cader, who were appointed by the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs. The two were appointed for a term of three months, which apparently expired on January 15.

It is believed that Matika is aiming to get rid of Mabilo as well as the two top acting officials.

A press conference was due to be held yesterday by the ANC Regional Executive Committee (REC). According to the notice, the briefing followed a meeting of the “ANC branch leadership on January 19 in which the poor conditions of service delivery within all branches and the state in which Sol Plaatje Municipality found itself” was discussed. The notice went on to say that it was agreed that “urgent intervention was needed”.

The briefing was however postponed due to “an urgent inter-branch meeting scheduled with the same logistics”.

Insiders in the ANC have accused Matika of using “unconstitutional structures” in his attempts to get rid of Mabilo, the acting MM and the acting CFO.

“The REC has never met and no decision has been taken by the PEC (Provincial Executive Committee) on the matter,” the insider said.

Matika has been accused further of “causing the ANC to bleed and tainting the image of the party”.

“It has hardly been a month since the ANC celebrations in Kimberley and we should be focusing on service delivery and not internal politicking.

“There is a rumour doing the rounds that Matika and his supporters will be making an unpopular decision this week, so anything can happen. We are all just waiting and watching to see what is going to happen.”

Insiders have also alluded to a secret meeting that was supposedly held last weekend to instigate protest action in certain wards where individuals were contesting the position of ward councillor.

“These protests will be based on the pretext of service delivery, meanwhile it is only an attempt to sow divisions to challenge the ward councillors.”

Meanwhile, disgruntled residents in the city have also expressed their frustrations with service delivery from the local municipality, which, they claim, is “worse than ever” despite threats from Mabilo that “heads will roll if there is no improvement in service delivery”.

Mabilo last week warned councillors and senior executive directors at the municipality that they “must do your work or face the consequences”.

The ultimatum was given during an urgent mayoral committee meeting, and came with an apology to the public for the service delivery challenges exposed during the recent visit by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Mabilo “expressed shock, disappointment and dissatisfaction regarding the poor service delivery in communities”.

Fed-up residents, however, say “nothing has changed”.

A Club 2000 resident said yesterday that his drain has been blocked for more than a week already. “I have called the call centre and got a reference number, I have called the mayor, the ward councillor and the senior manager of sanitation, and nothing has happened. No one has come out and raw sewage is still coming up through the shower and toilet and flooding my house.”

Other residents have taken to social media to complain about burst water pipes in their suburbs that are left to run for days and even weeks on end, while others have pointed out that their water meters, which are supposed to be read on a monthly basis, are filled with sand and haven’t been read for months.

Questions have also been asked why the municipality, which, by its own admission is facing severe financial constraints, continues to pay the salaries of Mahloko and Akharwaray in spite of them being on suspension for more than 18 months.

Mahloko and Akharwaray have been on suspension since July 2018 after a Section 106 report into irregularities at the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

Akharwaray has continued to receive his R2 million annual package, while Mahloko earns R1.9 million.

Mahloko maintains that she was never involved in any form of misconduct while Akharwaray is also challenging the legality of the report, which has to date never been discussed at a city council meeting.

A number of councillors have indicated that they will support the reinstatement of Mahloko and Akharwaray, adding that they should return to their desks for the “sake of restoring stability to the municipality”.

“These officials were never formally charged or subjected to any disciplinary hearings,” they pointed out.

EFF councillor Francis Thulo stated that he would vote for the removal of the acting officials at today’s scheduled meeting.

“These acting officials are costing taxpayers while the suspended officials are sitting at home earning a lot of money. Come July, they will be receiving salaries for two years without doing a stitch of work. Acting allowances were approved without the blessing of the council. Why should people be brought in from outside, because the municipality is not under administration. They keep saying there is no money. Why don’t they cut the electricity of state departments that owe R3 billion. They only know how to cut the power of indigents.”

Thulo added that there had been no noticeable improvement since the executive mayor and acting officials had taken office.

“These officials have no vision. It’s a mess and service delivery has come to a standstill. The legislation states that an acting post should only be filled for a maximum of three months.”

He pointed out that Akharwaray and Mahloko were not suspended based on the Section 106 report but rather following mass community protests.

The provincial secretary of the ANC, Deshi Ngxanga, said yesterday that he was reluctant to comment on allegations regarding Matika wanting to remove the executive mayor as he had no knowledge of it.

“It must be remembered that the ANC is a collective organisation and no individual can make any decisions on his own. The Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) is the final structure to take decisions and nobody has spoken to the PEC about the Sol Plaatje executive mayor. Even if it is an REC decision, there must be consultation with the PEC before any decision or announcement can be made,” said Ngxanga.

He added that in terms of the suspended CFO and MM, “there are issues there”.

“A 106 report was done and that report implicated the CFO and made a recommendation that disciplinary procedures should be implemented against her. She then went to the high court to obtain an interdict against the implementation of that recommendation, which is why no action has been taken.”

Ngxanga added that if ANC councillors wanted to bring back the suspended municipal manager, “this would be a matter that would need to be discussed with the PEC”.