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Municipality’s gates locked

Thembelihle Municipality remains closed after workers were chased away by EFF members. Picture: Supplied

EMPLOYEES of Thembelihle Local Municipality in Hopetown will stay at home until further notice after being told to leave their offices by EFF members. The action was initiated by the new mayor, Leonard Makenna.

Earlier this week the gates of the municipal building were locked and the mayor vowed that it would remain closed until the acting municipal manager (MM), Ratile Shuping, and the corporate manager, Travin Oliphant, are removed.

The acting MM is also serving as the chief financial officer (CFO) of Thembelihle Municipality after being deployed by the ANC.

It is believed that the corporate manager’s contract came to an end in 2019.

According to municipal employees a group of more than 40 people, who were mostly dressed in EFF regalia, arrived at the offices and instructed them to leave their offices within five minutes.

Employees accused the group of being “intimidating and rude to the workers”.

“They kept on shouting ‘get out, we close what is open and tighten whatever is loose’,” the employees said.

The police were called to the municipality to monitor the situation on Wednesday.

The closure of the municipal offices follows an unsuccessful council meeting, during which the mayor stated that the removal of the MM and the corporate manager was on the agenda.

The ANC and the EFF are at loggerheads and they are accusing each other of disrupting the meeting.

Apparently, the meeting was disrupted just before the critical issue of the removal of the acting MM and the corporate manager could be discussed.

Mayor Makenna claimed that councillors disrupted the meeting in order to prevent the removal of the two officials.

He accused the ANC of “buying time” for the mayor’s executive committee meeting, which was scheduled to take place after the council meeting.

He said it cannot be business as usual at the municipality until the matter of alleged unlawful appointments was resolved.

The executive committee meeting did not take place because the gates were locked.

Makenna said they hope to hold another council meeting early next week.

He explained that they decided to close the municipal offices because of complaints from the community that the municipal offices were being used for after-hour caucus meetings instead of service delivery.

He said employees at the municipality also complained that several politicians had access to the offices and “took documents as they pleased”.

“We have a letter from the MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta), Bentley Vass, that states that a CFO cannot be an MM at the same time. But the same ANC is acting contrary to that letter. They ambushed us intentionally to buy time,” said Makenna.

“The corporate manager’s position is also null and void after his contract ended in 2019,” he added.

A community meeting was held at the Steynville community hall on Wednesday afternoon, where the mayor informed the community about the developments at the municipality.

The ANC’s sub-regional chairperson, Jomo Mpamba, rubbished the allegations and said the council meeting was unsuccessful due to disruptions by EFF members who were apparently encouraged by the mayor.

Mpamba said the sub-committees were supposed to be elected during that meeting, but that did not happen.

He further denied any knowledge of any meetings being held at the municipal offices after hours.

According to Mpamba, the ANC started to raise objections about the processes being followed in dealing with the agenda.

“The mayor told his members to disrupt the meeting in order to avoid the executive meeting from taking place.

“The ANC councillors only started to raise objections on the point of administration, which the MM was not briefed on as per procedure, prior to the meeting.

“We know that they are still new in the council and we have to show them where they make mistakes.

“All the ANC was highlighting was that the MM had to be briefed prior to the meeting on what the point of administration entails. That is in order for the point to be properly engaged on,” said Mpamba.

“ANC councillors stood their ground on how council meetings should be formulated and for things to be done procedurally and openly as regulated by the Municipal Act.”

Mpamba also pointed out that the MM was acting in the position for a period of three months.

He said there were already plans in place to advertise the post in order to get a permanent replacement in January next year.

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