New Msunduzi Mayor: Man with a plan

2019-09-17 15:00
Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

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The City’s new leadership is prepared to take tough decisions in their mission to revitalise Msunduzi and ensure that its citizens get good governance and quality service delivery they deserve.

This commitment was made by recently-appointed Mayor Mzi Thebolla in an exclusive interview with The Witness on Monday.

Thebolla said for years they had seen the City losing its value in terms of both investment and the municipality so their priorities were geared towards turning that around.

He said they had to change the ways in which things have been done if Msunduzi is to truly reclaim its status as a capital city of the province.

At the top of the agenda, Thebolla said, was to clean the grime and filth that covered the streets and deal with the lawlessness that is a result of not enforcing by-laws.

“We want people to be able to live and do business in Pietermaritzburg. My view is that business is dead in the CBD and that is due to the lack of enforcement of by-laws and not maintaining infrastructure.”

Thebolla said the city’s roads and pavements were covered with trenches that were dug up by contractors who do not fill them when they are done working because no one has been following up to hold them accountable.

Part of the problem emanated from the poor governance of the City because decisions were not made timeously, he said. “We want to make the municipality functional again and that means making sure that it is properly governed. This leadership is prepared to make decisions, even the tough ones that might be considered unpopular. We will make them if they are in the best interest of this municipality.”

Part of issues of governance that Thebolla said needed to be address was the separation of powers and roles between the politicians and the City’s staff. He said municipal employees had a responsibility to implement the programmes of the municipality so that people get service delivery.

“Those who want to be politicians instead of being officials must just go and contest the elections and we will meet them at the polls, but those who want to continue being part of the staff must do the job they are paid to do.”

He said last week there was also a workshop for councillors to remind them of their roles and responsibilities because leadership did not want to find itself faced with issues of political interference on administrative matters.

“I don’t think there will be a problem on the side of the politicians because there is a commitment to get this ship sailing, but where I foresee a problem is that for a long time the municipal staff has been playing the role of politicians and we can’t allow to continue.

“We respect their rights as employees and we are not going to interfere with their work. We will engage them on the relevant platforms but we will want them to do what they are paid to do, otherwise we are not going to get along well.”

Thebolla is not oblivious to the tensions between senior officials and said he would try and mediate, but leadership would not hesitate to deal with the dereliction of duties and incompetence. “We are not going to allow anyone to be a stumbling block in what we are mandated to do and what the people of Msunduzi expect from us, so tough decisions will have to be made.”

Other plans to strengthen the administration include filling the vacant critical posts such as that of the City manager and the head of infrastructure services. Thebolla said leadership also wanted the finalisation of disciplinary issues that have been pending for a long period because they contributed to the instability and uncertainty in some of the departments.

The mayor said he is awaiting a report on Msunduzi’s financial department as the City is owed billions by its consumers. He said the report should shed light on the root causes of why people are not paying what they owe.

“One thing I know is that if your customers are happy, they will pay you, and if your systems are working properly, you will have less queries then you will have less challenges with collecting what is due to you.”

He said he did not believe that Msunduzi was bankrupt but there seems to be a problem of maladministration.

He added that billing was one of the systems that needed urgent attention and that council needed to get a buy-in from officials who are using the system and then ensure that they were adequately trained to use SAP.

He said other organisations that were using SAP, such as the provincial legislature were not having as many problems as Msunduzi so “I don’t know whether the municipality is using it effectively or if it’s being used at all”.

His plan, with detailed time-frames, will be presented before council soon for its approval for implementation.

On attempts by some disgruntled groups to discredit the new leadership, Thebolla said: “We are not money, so not everyone is going to like us.

“My appeal is to the people of Msunduzi to give us a chance to show them what we can do then judge from that.”

EXPERIENCE AND QUALIFICATIONS

Thebolla is a seasoned politician who has served in various senior positions, including that of a chairperson of the ANCYL in the province. His is a member of the ANC Moses Mabhida regional task team and part of the provincial political education unit.

He also has extensive experience and academic qualifications in local government. He was previously a councillor in Msunduzi and an executive committee member at uMgungundlovu District. His academic qualifications are in public administration and local governance and include a certificate that is equivalent to a diploma and an honours degree.

Personal life

Doctors have given Mayor Mzi Thebolla a clean bill of health.

On Monday he told The Witness that his recent four-week stay in hospital was the most difficult time of his life as he had never been admitted to any medical institution.

“It was mostly fatigue that was the root cause. My body took strain because I pushed myself too hard during the lead-up to the May and the recent by-elections in the northern areas. I was the head of mobilisation and I didn’t want to fail at the task I’d been given; unfortunately my health suffered the consequences. I’m okay now, the doctors have given me a clean bill of health and I’m ready to work,” he said.

Thebolla is a father to three children and has been married to Nomi Donaldson Thebolla since 2007. The 51-year-old beams when he speaks about his first grandchild, who was born recently.

Thebolla grew up in the Eastern Cape. He had to walk 25 km to and from school from the age of six.

He came from a poor family and his parents could not afford to pay for his high school education, but a good Samaritan came to his rescue when he saw him sitting at home while his peers were in school.

He is an avid soccer fan who confessed that he feels conflicted whenever his favourite teams — Maritzburg United and Kaizer Chiefs — meet on the pitch, so he decided not to watch their matches when they play against each other. He is also passionate about sport development and has founded his own team of youngsters — the Three Starts FC — which is on the SAB league.

“I need to declare the Three Stars to council so that when they do well people don’t say it’s because I’m mayor. I’ve never received any support or sponsorship for the team, except from Maritzburg United, and I will continue supporting them from my own pocket because I don’t want people to start saying I’m abusing my position,” the mayor said.

When Thebolla is not busy with family or work commitment, you will find him with his rod by the dam. But he admitted that this could be difficult to do now as he has new and pressing priorities as the first citizen of Msunduzi. 

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality
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