Makhanya verdict deferred

2016-09-21 09:20
Suspended Mhlathuze Water Board CEO, Sibusiso Makhanya (far right) pictured with Ashley Starkey and Cyril Gamede a few years ago.

Suspended Mhlathuze Water Board CEO, Sibusiso Makhanya (far right) pictured with Ashley Starkey and Cyril Gamede a few years ago. (File)

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The high court reserved judgment yesterday in a legal battle involving suspended Mhlatuze Water Board CEO Sibusiso Makhanya and the board’s chairperson, Duduzile Myeni.

Myeni, who is reportedly a staunch ally of President Jacob Zuma, has also been in the public eye recently due to her role as chairperson of the beleaguered SA Airways board.

Makhanya is challenging the legality of his suspension in November last year, pending disciplinary proceedings against him, and maintains that he was the victim of “ulterior motives”.

In turn it is contended on behalf of Myeni that there were good grounds to suspend him and to charge him with misconduct, and that charges formulated against him are the product of independent investigations.

Appearing before Judge Yvonne Mbatha on Tuesday, Makhanya’s advocate, Griffiths Madonsela, SC, argued that Water and Sanitation Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane acted illegally by extending the term of office of the Mhlatuze Water Board members and contended the board is therefore illegally constituted. The minister initially extended the term of office from February 28 last year and again in June this year, pending the proposed merger of the Umgeni and Mhlatuze water boards, a move which allegedly benefits Myeni as chair overseeing the amalgamation.

While Madonsela argued that the law makes no provision for the term of office of board members to be extended, the board’s advocate, V.I. Gajoo, SC, said there was nothing wrong with the minister’s action. “There is a road map in place to amalgamate the two boards … there was every reason for her to extend the office of the current board members instead of appointing an entirely new board. It’s common sense,” he said.

Another ground on which Makhanya is seeking to overturn his suspension is the fact that he was allegedly not afforded an opportunity to state his case when the decision to suspend him was taken.

Madonsela said a resolution by the board members on November 7 clearly stated that Makhanya was “suspended with immediate effect”.

He said the board’s suggestion that he was given a chance to make representations and was only suspended on November 20, after the representations were considered, was a “farce”.

Gajoo said on behalf of the board that Makhanya did not leave “with immediate effect” and was still working up to November 17. He said Makhanya had handed in two sick notes booking himself off work from November 10 to 17.

Judge Mbatha said she would take time to deliver her judgment in the case. No date was given for the ruling.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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