Dudu is dealt a blow

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MASONDO sipho.masondo@city­press.co.za

Dudu Myeni’s wings have been clipped by the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal, which last week or­dered Wa­ter Af­fairs and San­i­ta­tion Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane to axe the board of the Mh­lathuze Wa­ter author­ity – sit­u­ated in Richards Bay – which Myeni heads.

The judg­ment means Myeni – who is also the SAA board chair and head of the Ja­cob G Zuma Foun­da­tion – will have to step down.

The rul­ing fol­lows an ap­pli­ca­tion by Mh­lathuze Wa­ter’s sus­pended chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO), Sibu­siso Makhanya, who ac­cused Myeni in court pa­pers of hav­ing cap­tured the wa­ter author­ity.

In Novem­ber last year, Myeni’s board sus­pended Makhanya, cit­ing al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion. In June, Makhanya ap­proached the court to have his sus­pen­sion over­turned.

In court pa­pers, Makhanya ar­gued that the board had no right to sus­pend him on the grounds that, hav­ing served a four-year term, its man­date had ex­pired the pre­vi­ous Fe­bru­ary – and that Mokonyane had il­le­gally ex­tended it.

He also asked the court to de­clare Mokonyane’s ex­ten­sion of the board as il­le­gal and un­con­sti­tu­tional. He ar­gued that Myeni, who was ap­pointed in 2002, was an il­le­git­i­mate chair­per­son who had served her max­i­mum three terms.

In Fe­bru­ary last year, Mokonyane ex­tended the board’s life by six months. In July, she ex­tended it in­def­i­nitely. In her judg­ment, Judge Yvonne Mbatha found the board’s ex­ten­sion to be “un­law­ful and in­valid”, say­ing it was done with “ab­so­lutely no (le­gal) pro­vi­sion”. Mbatha also ruled that the board’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend Makhanya and in­sti­tute dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against him was in­valid.

Myeni did not re­spond to ques­tions this week. Mli­man­dlela Ndamase, Mokonyane’s spokesper­son, said the depart­ment was study­ing the judg­ment.

‘DUDU CAP­TURES MH­LATHUZE’: MAKHANYA

In his ap­pli­ca­tion, re­ported by City Press in Septem­ber, Makhanya ar­gued that:

In March 2015, Myeni in­structed him to in­voice the KwaZulu-Natal co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance depart­ment for R1.4 mil­lion for work the wa­ter author­ity had not done. Myeni also told him that she would give him ac­count de­tails of where to de­posit the money;

Since 2014, Myeni had been de­mand­ing in­for­ma­tion about all ten­ders to be ad­ver­tised;

Myeni did not de­clare her in­ter­ests in a com­pany that was awarded a ten­der by the wa­ter board; and

Myeni de­manded the can­cel­la­tion of a R50 mil­lion ten­der after re­al­is­ing the com­pany she was eye­ing was not ap­pointed.

Makhanya added that when Myeni told him he was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, she said: “Ukuthi wena Makhanya awungidlisi, kanti abanye oCEO bayabadlisa o chair­per­son babo. [It is be­cause you, Makhanya, are not feed­ing me when other chief ex­ec­u­tives are feed­ing their chair­per­sons.]”

How­ever, the court ruled that th­ese al­le­ga­tions were “vex­a­tious and scan­dalous”, and ir­rel­e­vant to Makhanya’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

THE UN­ORTHO­DOX MERGER

Mokonyane’s ex­ten­sion of the board’s term of of­fice in July last year co­in­cided with her an­nounce­ment of the merger of the Mh­lathuze and Um­geni wa­ter boards.

In court pa­pers, Makhanya ar­gued that Mokonyane did so to ben­e­fit Myeni and en­sure she be­came part of the new, big­ger board.

In Septem­ber, City Press re­ported that Trea­sury was un­happy with the merger.

In a strongly worded let­ter to Mar­garet-Ann Diedricks, the depart­ment of wa­ter af­fairs and san­i­ta­tion’s for­mer direc­tor-gen­eral, Trea­sury boss Lungisa Fuzile warned that Um­geni’s cred­i­tors could see the merger as a dis­es­tab­lish­ment of the wa­ter util­ity and de­mand that all mul­ti­mil­lion-rand loans be set­tled im­me­di­ately.

Lungisa told Diedricks that the dis­es­tab­lish­ment of Um­geni and Mh­lathuze “dif­fered vastly” from the plan to re­align wa­ter boards ap­proved by Cabinet.

This week, a se­nior Mh­lathuze of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said the ideal sit­u­a­tion would have been for Um­geni to take over Mh­lathuze be­cause the lat­ter was far too small. Mh­lathuze has an an­nual cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture bud­get of about R300 mil­lion. Um­geni’s cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture for the five-year pe­riod to 2018 is more than R5 bil­lion.

“Ide­ally, Mh­lathuze should have been taken over, or swal­lowed, by Um­geni. But this merger is not clean; it is meant to ben­e­fit Dudu [Myeni], who has al­ready been made the in­terim chair­per­son of the board over­see­ing the merger,” the of­fi­cial said.

“That in­terim board – if one can call it that – has been in place for al­most a year, but [its mem­bers] have not met once. And they don’t have of­fices. What ex­actly are they do­ing?”

TALK TO US What do you think will be the af­ter­math of this court rul­ing – cleaner over­sight, or more of the same?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word DUDU and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

AXED Dudu Myeni

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