The Mercury

Ezemvelo pay-off questioned

- Tony Carnie

EZEMVELO chief executive Bandile Mkhize – suspended last year for his alleged role in awarding massive pay hikes to himself and fellow executives – has left the organisati­on after reaching a secret “settlement agreement”.

Comfort Ngidi, the chairman of the board of Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, declined to discuss the terms of the settlement yesterday on the basis that both parties agreed that the terms would remain confidenti­al.

Mkhize was due to have faced several charges at an internal disciplina­ry inquiry earlier this month including allegation­s of “gross dishonesty”, inflated travel costs and spending millions of rands on salary hikes that had not been budgeted for. But it is understood that Mkhize demanded a substantia­l “golden handshake” after lodging a countercla­im against his suspension with the Commission for Conciliati­on, Mediation and Arbitratio­n (CCMA).

According to a statement issued by the Ezemvelo board yesterday, Mkhize and the provincial conservati­on agency had now “parted ways amicably”.

He had resigned with effect from September 4, following his formal suspension in December 2014.

“The board’s decision was based on its desire to ensure the organisati­on becomes stable. The board further noted that the instabilit­y was causing strain to the Ezemvelo board and attracting unnecessar­y negative publicity.

“This settlement is, without a doubt, in the best interest of the organisati­on and will allow Ezemvelo to focus on its conservati­on mandate without any distractio­ns.”

Asked whether the settlement implied that Ezemvelo lacked confidence in the strength of its case in the disciplina­ry inquiry and separate CCMA matter, Ngidi said there were “several considerat­ions at the end of the day”.

“This matter has been going on for almost a year already. We believed we had a strong case and Dr Mkhize also believed he had a strong case, and we had to take a decision that we believe to be in the best interests of the organisati­on.”

A senior Ezemvelo staffer, who did not wish to be named, expressed surprise last night.

“Why agree to a settlement when the serious charges against him appear to have warranted immediate dismissal?

“Is it because he was protected as an ANC appointee, or was there a concern that some dirty laundry might come out in the CCMA case?”

He said the public had a right to know the terms of the settlement agreement as Ezemvelo was a parastatal body that received significan­t public funding.

Responding, Ngidi acknowledg­ed Ezemvelo was a public entity, but said the organisati­on was legally bound by the confidenti­ality agreement.

“We are going to start the process of finding a new chief executive and hopefully begin a new chapter in Ezemvelo’s history.”

Ngidi said acting chief executive David Mabunda would remain in his position until a new permanent appointmen­t was made.

Mkhize also declined to disclose terms of the agreement.

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