R9m tax bill for an ANC bat­tle

Ratepay­ers to carry the can for mu­nic­i­pal­ity ill-ad­vis­edly fir­ing an op­po­nent of Premier David Mabuza in 2013

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Ratepay­ers at a small dis­trict mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Mpumalanga will have to fork out R9 mil­lion to set­tle a long-run­ning dis­pute be­tween the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and a po­lit­i­cal ri­val of Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza’s, whose anti-Mabuza stance saw him fired from his job.

Charles Makola – the for­mer Mpumalanga ANC deputy chair­per­son and Nkan­gala dis­trict mu­nic­i­pal man­ager – is hav­ing the last laugh af­ter win­ning a three-year-long case deal­ing with his un­fair dis­missal.

The Nkan­gala mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Mid­del­burg ad­min­is­ters the province’s main min­ing, steel and elec­tric­ity-gen­er­at­ing re­gion. It dis­missed Makola a month be­fore his con­tract was to ex­pire, at the end of Fe­bru­ary 2013. He was ac­cused of hir­ing a black­listed com­pany to do work for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, ap­point­ing a busi­ness that sub­mit­ted ten­der doc­u­ments af­ter the clos­ing date for a con­tract, and giv­ing work to another com­pany with­out it un­der­go­ing a com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process.

Makola chal­lenged his dis­missal at the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion (CCMA), which has now ruled that he was un­fairly dis­missed.

The CCMA or­dered the coun­cil to pay Makola R1.5 mil­lion, which was his an­nual salary at the time of his dis­missal, by Septem­ber 15 this year.

Had the coun­cil let the for­mer mu­nic­i­pal man­agers’ five-year con­tract lapse, it would have paid him only R130 000, his monthly salary.

Now it is fac­ing a R9 mil­lion bill made up of the R1.5 mil­lion it must pay him, plus another R7.5 mil­lion in le­gal fees and foren­sic au­dit in­ves­ti­ga­tion fees.

The coun­cil had com­mis­sioned the au­dit in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a bid to build a strong case against Makola.

The R9 mil­lion fig­ure could in­crease fur­ther if Makola suc­ceeds in his court ap­pli­ca­tion to force the coun­cil to pay his le­gal costs as well.

When Makola was sus­pended on Jan­uary 25 2012, he was be­ing lob­bied by a num­ber of branches to stand against Mabuza for the po­si­tion of pro­vin­cial chair­per­son at the elec­tive con­fer­ence in Mbombela.

But Mabuza’s al­lies in the ANC’s Nkan­gala re­gional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee started build­ing a case against the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager in a bid to weaken his chances of oust­ing Mabuza. The re­gion sub­se­quently wrote to the ANC pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship in Mpumalanga re­quest­ing he be re­called.

Makola in­sists there was no case against him from the be­gin­ning.

“I did noth­ing wrong and their foren­sic au­dit re­port found noth­ing against me.

“In fact, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was do­ing well. It had re­ceived un­qual­i­fied Au­di­tor-Gen­eral re­ports while I was the man­ager for more than 10 years,” he told City Press.

Nkan­gala Dis­trict Mu­nic­i­pal­ity spokesper­son David Masombuka did not re­spond to writ­ten ques­tions from City Press re­quest­ing more in­for­ma­tion about the costs to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the or­der granted in favour of Makola.

Mem­ber of the DA leg­is­la­ture Bos­man Grob­ler, who was a coun­cil­lor in the dis­trict mu­nic­i­pal­ity when Makola was sacked, agreed that Makola had run the mu­nic­i­pal­ity fairly well.

“This was a po­lit­i­cal mat­ter and we are very con­cerned that the public will have to pay. The case was never cheap, be­cause the coun­cil hired the best lawyers.

“As the DA, we will be do­ing any­thing we can to en­sure the tax­payer does not pay for a po­lit­i­cal mat­ter,” added Grob­ler.

Mpumalanga ANC sec­re­tary Lucky Ndin­isa said the pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee was dis­ap­pointed with the man­ner in which the is­sue was han­dled and the fact that the Nkan­gala mu­nic­i­pal­ity was now li­able for so much money.

Charles Makola

David Mabuza

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