Dudu is dealt a blow
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?”
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AXED Dudu Myeni