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Mayor heads to court after council defies MEC

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The mayor of Thembelihle Local Municipality, Leonard Makenna, will approach the NC High Court in an urgent bid to compel the local council to comply after it defied the instructions of the NC MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs.

Coghsta MEC Bentley Vass. File picture: Danie van der Lith

THE MAYOR of Thembelihle Local Municipality, Leonard Makenna, will approach the Northern Cape High Court on March 22 in an urgent bid to compel the local council to comply after it defied the instructions of the Northern Cape MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta).

The MEC for Coghsta, Bentley Vass, stated on March 8 that the decision by the Thembelihle municipal council to reinstate the senior manager of corporate services, Trevin Ralph Oliphant, and uplift the suspension of the chief financial officer, Radile Shuping, went against his advice and should be reversed.

In correspondence, he pointed out that Oliphant’s appointment was null and void, as he did not meet the minimum requirements for the position.

Vass stated that the council defied his instruction in June 2022 to withdraw his appointment.

“Council is advised to rescind its decision to reinstate Oliphant without having reviewed the decision of the South African Local Government Bargaining Council award.”

He added that the council had disregarded the disciplinary hearing report of Shuping and that uplifting his suspension was unlawful.

Makenna wrote to the MEC on March 19 as the Speaker, J Mkosana, had “deliberately failed” to convene a special council meeting to implement his instructions.

He sought intervention as he explained that Shuping’s reinstatement had “sparked controversy” and it had the potential to destabilise the municipality.

Makenna applied to the court to order the Speaker to convene the council meeting no later than March 29 to table the disciplinary report against the CFO, failing which the MEC for Coghsta should be ordered to appoint another person to chair the meeting.

He said the CFO had held a dual position as the acting municipal manager in 2022, which created “room for corruption”.

The CFO was placed on precautionary suspension in July 2022 with full benefits.

In court papers, Makenna pointed out that there were concerted efforts to conceal the findings of an independent disciplinary report from council.

“My pleas to table the report were bluntly ignored. I was advised that the report would create serious problems in the political space.”

Makenna stated that after approaching the MEC for Coghsta “out of sheer desperation”, Vass had instructed the Thembelihle council to convene a special council meeting by March 18.

“The Speaker ignored the letter while myself along with four other councillors attended the meeting on Monday. The Speaker never replied to my letters and instead told me that he received instructions from his political office to disregard the directives of the MEC. This is despite the fact that the MEC’s directives are binding on the municipality.”

He added that the stability of the municipality and its ability to deliver services and execute its functions were being hampered, while the looting of state funds had to be prevented at all costs.

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