‘Golden handshake’ for Mbombela municipal manager

2013-09-09 12:34

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Mbombela municipal manager Xolani Mzobe is being pushed from his job with three years and nine months still remaining on his five-year contract.

City Press has heard that Mzobe’s departure from his job at the helm of Mpumalanga’s capital city has been orchestrated by the ANC’s Ehlanzeni region, which informed a caucus of ANC councillors in the municipality at a meeting on Friday that they should “assist” Mzobe to leave.

Three insiders who attended the caucus meeting said that regional ANC secretary Pat Ngomane did not allow questions and only announced that the councillors should take a resolution that Mzobe should go.

“The ANC wants us to give him a golden handshake. We’re told we must assist the municipal manager to go and no questions were allowed,” said one.

The meeting resolved, the three said, to refer the matter to Mbombela executive mayor Cathy Dlamini, speaker Jester Sidel and chief whip Precious Manana to begin considering how Mzobe should be compensated.

The Mbombela council is expected to hold a special meeting this week to formalise the decision with a resolution.

No reasons were given for the ANC’s decision to remove Mzobe, but many believe that this signals that Dlamini’s job could be on the line.

Ehlanzeni ANC secretary Pat Ngomane was not available for comment as his cellphone was switched off, while provincial ANC spokesperson Siphosezwe Masango said he could not comment as the “provincial executive committee was not privy to the developments”.

Mbombela spokesperson Joseph Ngala said the “municipality will talk after the council has pronounced itself. As you know, the municipality does not sit in the caucus.”

Mzobe and Dlamini have been considered to be stumbling blocks for refusing to be controlled by senior party members on matters of tender allocation.

“They want to get at Dlamini because there’s a concern that ANC leaders can’t control and micromanage the affairs of Mbombela municipality,” said another insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

City Press also understands that Mzobe had a serious fallout with Mpumalanga corporative governance head of department and ANC national executive committee member David Mahlobo and provincial director-general Nonhlanhla Mkhize.

The two have allegedly accused Mzobe of being arrogant, particularly for pointing out to them that Mbombela is one of 17 non-delegated municipalities in the country – which means that their budgets are reviewed and assessed by National Treasury and not the province.

Mzobe was embarrassed in front of his colleagues from 21 Mpumalanga municipalities when he was instructed to leave a provincial lekgotla three weeks ago, because he was accused of failing to report to the province.

A source said: “We’re surprised why the province is not so keen to intervene in municipalities like Nkomazi (Malalane) and Thaba Chweu (Lydenburg), which are performing so poorly they got disclaimers.”

Opposition parties raised the same concern in the legislature last week and accused Premier David Mabuza of being “selective” and implementing “half-baked” interventions after he only appointed teams to intervene in Msukaligwa (Ermelo) and Govan Mbeki (Secunda) while four other municipalities had received disclaimers.

Mbombela is the second-best performing local municipality in the province, according to the latest Auditor-General report, after the Steve Tshwete municipality (Middelburg).

It received an unqualified audit report with a few matters it has to fix in order to achieve a clean audit like Steve Tshwete.

Now the municipality may be forced to fork out more than R5 million in a golden handshake for Mzobe.

Last year, the ANC instructed its councillors to drop a guilty verdict against Mzobe’s predecessor, Jacob Dladla, who was fired following disciplinary charges relating to alleged tender corruption involving the construction of the R1.2 billion Mbombela Stadium.

Dladla earned about R3 million from the municipality while he was facing criminal charges relating to the case. The criminal charges were provisionally withdrawn in June by the Nelspruit Regional Court.

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