EMLM told to rescind MM’s ‘unlawful’ contract extension
The Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality council terminated the municipal manager’s three-month contract extension at Friday’s closed meeting, after finance minister Enoch Godongwana said the extension was unlawful.
The council also resolved that Donoven Van Wyk would step in as the acting municipal manager.
Van Wyk also stepped in in an acting position when former municipal manager Chris Magwangqana was suspended in 2018.
The finance minister, in a letter addressed to council speaker Noluthando Nqabisa, said the council’s decision to extend Zondani’s contract was irregular and unlawful, and was taken in the absence of concurrence from the National Cabinet Representative (NCR).
Zondani’s contract ended on October 31, and the council had resolved that she serve the remainder of the notice period on leave.
But it later emerged, from one of the confidential meetings held recently by council, that her contract was extended.
Godongwana noted that the council speaker would be familiar with the provision contained in Section 57(6) (a) of the Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (Act No 32 of 2000).
“This section states that the employment contract of a municipal manager may not exceed a period of one year after the election of the next council of the municipality.
“Given that the current municipal council was elected in November 2021, the expiry date of October 31 2022 aligns to the maximum period by which she could lawfully remain in this position. Hence, the decision by the municipal council to extend the contract by three months is unlawful, in that it contravenes the requirements of the Municipal Systems Act as amended.”
The minister said National Treasury had also recently written to the council recommending Zondani be placed on precautionary suspension for failing to co-operate with processes initiated to reconstruct destroyed documentation required by the NCR and his team.
In addition, Godongwana said Zondani’s continued employment in the municipality posed a serious risk to the NCR’s objectives.
“The municipality is under national intervention and the reason as to why the council would support a decision that contradicts the advice of the national Treasury is unclear.
“Such actions by the council indicate a lack of support for the objectives of the intervention and that of the financial recovery plan.
“According to Section 139 [b] of the Constitution, such action by council can provide a basis for its dissolution,” the minister warned.
The council was also cautioned to ensure all executive and statutory decisions taken were aligned to the intervention’s objectives and the financial recovery plan.
“We therefore advise the municipality to urgently convene and rescind the impugned decision that it has taken to extend the contract of the municipal manager by three months.
“Should council fail to rescind its decision, processes to obtain an urgent interdict against this decision of council will be initiated,” he added.
“Furthermore, should any unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure be incurred by the municipality as a result of the decision by council, it will be recommended that these costs be recouped directly from the councillors in their personal capacities.”
An insider who attended the private council meeting said the council had resolved to terminate the contract.
According to council rule, the process of rescinding a contract takes up to three months and requires council to go to court.
The source said the contract was extended after an ANC councillor sat in a caucus meeting.
“In their caucus they said they were still trying to find a job for the municipal manager, but when they came to us they said they wanted to keep her so that she can conduct all the processes of getting the new municipal manager to be appointed. All the opposition parties were against that.
“We went to cast votes and the ANC won by majority. We were assisted by the finance minister’s letter.
“Opposition parties also did not agree on who should act in the position of municipal manager. The ANC wanted Van Wyk to act.
“Opposition parties supported the minister’s recommendation to send someone from the national government to act as the municipal manager. This is because there are certain agendas that they want to achieve by appointing Van Wyk, which means there are certain decisions the municipality cannot take.
“The national government should send someone who will keep an eye on all the processes of employing a new municipal manager. We had to vote again and they won by majority.”
He said the NCR was facing resistance from the ANC council.
“There is no reason why they should have a problem of being under the national administrator. We are no longer an independent municipality, we are under national intervention.”