Mpumalanga’s only properly qualified municipal manager axed

2014-03-14 17:08

The municipal manager of Mbombela city, Xolani Mzobe, has been fired for flouting procedures relating to procuring services and goods for the R40 million Africa Cup of Nations in 2013.

Mzobe was suspended last September after Mpumalanga Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Simon Skhosana instituted a probe into the affairs of Mbombela.

Mayoral executive committee member Sibusiso Mathonsi said Mzobe was found guilty on 30 of 32 charges pertaining to the contravention of procurement regulations, failure to report such to the Auditor-General, failure to implement council resolutions, fraud and dishonesty.

“Four officials were charged in relation to these charges, their disciplinary hearings have been finalised and [we] await the decision of council,” Mathonsi said.

Mzobe is the only municipal manager in Mpumalanga who is compliant with standards set by Finance Minister Pravin Godhan for qualifications and competency levels of municipal employees.

This is according to responses Skhosana had given to the Democratic Alliance in the provincial legislature.

Municipalities Audit

Mzobe could not be reached for comment today. He said he was driving in a bad area with poor cellphone reception.

City Press has, however, learnt that Mzobe was fired although he did not testify in his disciplinary hearing because he had objected that council had not followed procedure.

Mbombela was one of the cities that hosted the African Cup of Nations. It hosted Nigeria, Zambia, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.

The writing was already on the wall for Mzobe before Skhosana intervened and launched an investigation.

ANC secretary in the Ehlanzeni region, Pat Ngomana, lobbied the party’s councillors to take a resolution to fire Mzobe, but most of them protested because he did not give them reasons and questioned why the party took no action against managers in worse-performing municipalities.

The councillors were also concerned that Mzobe’s dismissal would require that he be compensated more than R5 million for the termination of his contract, of which three years and nine months were left.

At that time, Mzobe hit out at provincial Cogta head and ANC national executive member David Mahlobo, as well as provincial director-general Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, for orchestrating his removal because he refused to allow them to have a say in controlling the municipality’s R2 billion budget.

Mzobe alleged – in a letter he wrote to mayor Cathy Dlamini which was leaked to City Press – that the duo had threatened to convince Skhosana and Premier David Mabuza to sack him because he was arrogant.

He said they tried to force the municipality to keep R329 million of its budget unallocated to any project in the 2013/14 financial year – a decision which national Treasury condemned as being against budget and financial management principles.

“I was expressly told by [Mahlobo] and [Mkhize] that my presence at the municipality causes problems and that they are going to ask [Skhosana] and [Mabuza] to intervene and relieve me from my position because I am arrogant. It is not by my own choice that we find ourselves reporting to national Treasury. When one articulates this position, [they] interpret this as a display of arrogance,” Mzobe wrote.

He added that his decision to investigate how Mahlobo’s wife, Nompumelelo, was employed as administration officer in Mbombela was another reason the duo was gunning for him.

Mzobe’s appointment at Mbombela was mired in controversy after it emerged that he was the third choice after interviews. At that time, the ANC deployment committee wanted him and he got the job.

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