Mayor, city manager fall out

2009-03-12 00:00

There has been a major fallout between Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo and municipal manager Rob Haswell, which sources in city hall say is affecting the running of the city.

Their spat played out in a four-hour special full council meeting on Wednesday. Haswell presented a report that pushed for the suspension on full pay of deputy municipal manager for infrastructure services Phil Mashoko.

This move was allegedly strongly opposed by the mayor and her supporters among the ANC councillors. The meeting, according to sources, ended with no resolution. Mashoko’s fate still hangs in the balance and no date has been set for the meeting to be reconvened.

The dispute has its origins in the decision to declare Pietermaritzburg a metro from 2011. The ink was hardly dry on the metro documents before senior managers allegedly started pushing for a change in their titles and an increase in salary.

Their argument was that senior officials in the other cities due for metro status, Mangaung (Bloemfontein) and Buffalo City (East London) are earning more.

The new deal would have seen the five deputy managers earning over R960 000 a year, pushing Haswell’s package close to a million. It is alleged the deal was brought before Exco while Mashoko was acting municipal manager. Exco agreed to the packages and authorised the mayor to negotiate and sign the deal.

However, it is alleged that council speaker Alpha Shelembe opposed the increases, pointing out at a special recess meeting in December that only the full council should employ Section 57 senior managers and authorise salary packages.

Two senior managers then tasked their lawyers to challenge the reversal of the deal.

Haswell sought to resolve the matter at the special full council meeting on Wednesday. He presented a report based on a legal opinion he had obtained. Councillors allege that the report was aimed at exonerating Haswell and leaving Mashoko as the scapegoat.

According to Haswell’s report, Mashoko prepared the document while he was acting municipal manager, stating that the appointment of the deputy municipal managers could take place.

Haswell claimed that this report “wittingly or unwittingly misled Exco” into authorising the deal.

He added that Mashoko had a direct interest in the finalisation of the packages and therefore was a conflict of interest. He recommended Mashoko’s suspension.

While Haswell fought for Mashoko to go, the mayor fought for him to be retained. Wednesday’s meeting, according to sources, broke several times for party caucuses, with the ANC firmly divided.

Councillors allegedly queried Haswell’s role, saying he had acted illegally by appointing Mashoko as the acting municipal manager. Only a full council is authorised to appoint an acting municipal manager.

Opposition parties also questioned the mayor’s role in authorising the increased pay packages.

Apparently the recess council meeting recommended that legal opinion be sought on the legality of negotiated packages.

Some councillors wanted to read the legal opinion commissioned by Haswell before making a decision.

By yesterday no one wanted to comment.

Haswell was off sick with bronchitis. When contacted by The Witness for a comment, he referred queries to speaker Shelembe.

Hlatshwayo said she is not at liberty to comment because the matter is confidential. Mashoko also declined to comment.

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