Sol Plaatje Municipality chief financial officer Lydia Mahloko and municipal manager Goolam Akharwaray feel vindicated after a settlement agreement was reached regarding the Section 106 investigation report.
SOL PLAATJE municipal manager Goolam Akharwaray and chief financial officer Lydia Mahloko will consider returning to their posts if offered the opportunity, after a settlement agreement was reached in the Northern Cape High Court on Monday.
Mahloko and Akharwaray approached the court to interdict the Section 106 investigation report that was commissioned in 2018 by the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs.
A task team was appointed to investigate irregularities, fruitless and wasteful expenditure at Sol Plaatje Municipality following a city-wide shutdown over high electricity tariffs and calls for Sol Plaatje officials, including former mayor Mangaliso Matika, to step down.
Both parties feel that they have suffered reputational damage and have indicated that further legal action may be on the cards.
According to the court order that was granted by Judge Lawrence Lever and Judge Cecile Williiams, “the contents of the draft order will not be disclosed for any purpose save to state that the application has been withdrawn and no reliance may be placed on the report.”
Akharwaray and Mahloko were satisfied with the settlement and stated that they felt vindicated by the outcome.
“We are prepared to consider being reinstated, if we are offered our positions back.”
Akharwaray believed that it was “three years wasted” while the pair were left in limbo waiting for an outcome.
“We were not privy to the reasons as to why it took three years to arrive at a conclusion.
“The allegations are unfounded and the investigation process was flawed. We argued that there was bias among some of the task team members – in the way some of the witnesses were questioned. We argued that the report was irrational, where mandates and procedures were not followed. None of the witnesses were made to testify under oath. In terms of the law, the hearings should have been made public but were instead held in a private office.
“The fact that they agreed to settle implies that we were right.
“We hope this is a lesson to everyone – that it was three years wasted, not just for us but for the institution that benefited from our services and society that had to pay our salaries while we were placed on suspension.”
He added that he had suffered great reputational damage as he was a well-known public figure.
“How do you fix public perceptions? I was receiving calls from people across the country, wanting to know what is going on.
“I took up the position of municipal manager 10 years ago when the municipality was on its knees. By 2017/18 the municipality was rated as one of the top four in the country. The municipality was receiving unqualified opinions, it did not owe any debts and R1 billion was ploughed into upgrading infrastructure.
“National Treasury requested me to write a report on how I managed to turn around the municipality so quickly. I was not able to submit the report as I was suspended six months before the Section 106 report was released. Furthermore, the decision to suspend us has never been reversed.”
Akharwaray stated that since his suspension the municipality had regressed to an extent that service delivery was suffering.
“I do believe that the municipality can be rescued and restored once more, it all boils down to good leadership,” he added.
Mahloko was relieved that the case had finally reached a conclusion.
“For the past three years my life has been on hold. I was not able to apply for another job, while my career was placed on ice. I am prepared to go back to the municipality, however, it is not my call. The ball is now in their court, it is a case of whoever blinks first and who makes the next move.”
She pointed out the municipality had failed to follow procedures after they were suspended.
“After 90 days a suspension lapses.”
Advocate Percy Mthombeni was the legal representative for Mahloko and Akharwaray, while advocate Renata Williams SC appeared for Coghsta and Oban Cronje represented Sol Plaatje Municipality.