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
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.