Council averts attachment over harassment claim

2012-01-27 12:57

A Mpumalanga council has averted the attachment of its properties at the last minute after arranging to pay R549 000 in legal costs to an employee who has won a sexual harassment case.

The Dr JS Moroka municipality failed to respond to a warrant of execution which was served on the municipality last month by administration clerk Ester Mahlangu-Mathibela.

Mahlangu-Mathibela won a R1.3 million civil claim against the municipality and its former manager, George Mthimunye, after she was subjected to sexual harassment from 1998 to 2001.

The sheriff of the court had attached seven sedans, two graders and a water tanker in order to recoup Mahlangu-Mathibela’s legal costs, incurred during the lengthy lawsuit in the North Gauteng High Court.

Acting municipal manager Jacob Mabena arranged to pay the amount when the properties were about to be taken away yesterday morning.

“We told the sheriff that we would pay and the properties were not attached,” Mabena said.

However, the council is not off the hook yet as it still has to pay damages, following Judge Jody Kollapen’s ruling that it had failed to prevent the sexual harassment from taking place.

Mabena said the council would meet and take a resolution on what to do about the rest of the claim.

Mahlangu-Mathibela’s husband, Steve Mathibela, confirmed that his wife was paid in part.

“They gave us a cheque of R549 919.77 by midday yesterday,” he said.

Mthimunye was recently employed as municipal manager of Naledi local municipality in Vryburg, North West, where former cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka had deployed him to turn its fortunes around.

Mthimunye’s contract was not renewed when it expired in August last year.

The DA in Mpumalanga has meanwhile called on cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Madala Masuku to intervene.

“(We) will write to MEC Masuku and ask him to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the decision to pay Mthimunye’s legal fees, as well as the circumstances surrounding the alleged R5 million settlement he received upon the termination of his contract,” said DA legislature member James Masango.

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