Mbombela mayor in disciplinary ‘cover-up’

2015-03-29 15:00

Mbombela Mayor Sibusiso Mathonsi has shut out 78 councillors from handling a disciplinary matter against a manager who allegedly broke the rules to hire 30 ANC members.

Mathonsi unilaterally decided to appoint an investigator to probe fraud and corruption charges levelled against Mbombela municipal manager Noko Seanego – six months after the scandal first broke – without involving the council.

The investigator will also probe mayoral committee member Bheki Zulu, who was charged with public violence after he allegedly participated in the assault by ANC members of SA Communist Party (SACP) members at a memorial lecture in KaNyamazane township, Mpumalanga, in January.

Both Seanego and Zulu should have faced internal misconduct charges already, but Mathonsi claimed he had no information about the cases because the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) didn’t give him any.

Opposition parties see this as an attempt to cover things up after Mathonsi ignored complaints to suspend Seanego when City Press first revealed how he appointed ANC members as law enforcement officers from a list provided by the party’s Ehlanzeni region.

“It is not the mayor’s responsibility to do misconduct investigations. The decision by the ANC to allow the mayor to appoint his own investigator is in contradiction of all rules and regulations,” said DA councillor Werner le Grange.

“The mayor’s intention is to control the situation and limit embarrassment. In January, he said he would not investigate Seanego, and now he’s making a turnaround.”

At the time, Mathonsi told City Press Seanego’s matter was sub judice and he would not launch an internal investigation against him. Seanego was later arrested after the Economic Freedom Fighters laid charges against him with the police.

Mathonsi’s spokesperson, Joseph Ngala, said Seanego signed a contract with Mathonsi while Zulu was a mayoral committee member, which meant the mayor had to handle the investigations himself. “The mayor got one-sentence responses from the NPA and he does not have charge sheets. So he had to get the investigator to source information he could present before council,” Ngala said.

In terms of the Local Government Municipal Systems Act, allegations of misconduct by a senior manager must be tabled by the mayor before council within seven days of receiving it.

Council must then appoint an independent investigator or dismiss the allegations.

Disciplinary procedures may also not be dispensed with, even if criminal action is instituted.

Seanego was the city’s corporate-services director when he employed the ANC cadres, despite complaints from shop stewards from unions Samwu and Imatu (both representing municipal workers), who were part of the panel.

Seanego was caught on audio and video pushing for the employment of the ANC members by bringing in candidates who were not shortlisted for interviews and issuing instructions that some should receive favourable scores even though they had not been interviewed.

He also allegedly changed position titles from “law enforcement officers” to “specialised security officers” to circumvent the vetting of cadres who may have had criminal records.

Seanego is accused of giving 10 of the successful candidates for the law enforcement officer positions lower-paying jobs as security officers when they came to collect their contracts. Law enforcement officers earn R146?000 a year compared with the R97?000 security officers take home.

Zulu was arrested when he allegedly incited violence at KaNyamazane, which caused a fist fight between ANC and SACP members.

The fracas broke out when the ANC in the Ehlanzeni region objected to the SACP inviting former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa to its annual Joe Slovo memorial lecture because Phosa had submitted an intelligence report to Luthuli House about Premier David Mabuza’s alleged role as a former apartheid spy.

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