Parties walk out of meeting

2020-01-31 14:30
Dr Ray Ngcobo.

Dr Ray Ngcobo. (Ian Carbutt)

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An uMgungundlovu District full council meeting collapsed over opposition parties’ calls for the municipal manager, Ray Ngcobo, to be placed under precautionary suspension on Thursday.

The EFF, DA and IFP walked out of the council chamber after a proposal to suspend Ngcobo was not supported by the ANC caucus after more than an hour of tense deliberation behind closed doors.

The governing party proposed that Ngcobo should instead be given seven days to make written submissions in response to the allegations of attempts to interfere with the probe of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The SIU is investigating allegations of maladministration and improper conduct by district officials related to the tenders for events such as the Mandela Day Marathon and public consultation izimbizo. Ngcobo has denied the allegations, saying they were nothing but lies aimed at tarnishing his reputation.

During yesterday’s meeting, DA councillor Ross Strachan asked for an update on how council would be dealing with the matter.

He said during the December meeting council had resolved that its legal adviser should request the SIU to come to full council to provide clarity on its recommendation, but that had not happened.

“The Special Investigating Unit has got findings coming from the highest body in this country — the president’s office — and if we are not going to take that seriously then I don’t know what we will take seriously. We need this report dealt with today and make resolutions so please tell us if it’s on the agenda so that we can move forward with the meeting,” said Strachan.

The ANC and opposition parties then butted heads over whether the resolution should be made public or confidential as Strachan had also asked Ngcobo to recuse himself from the meeting.

“If items like these are not confidential then I don’t know which items should be treated as confidential … Even for this item to be on the minutes is wrong. The deliberations on this matter should continue under confidential,” said the ANC’s Jabu Ngubo.

After a long debate the parties eventually agreed on confidential discussions but they still could not come to an agreement.

DA caucus leader Bongumusa Nhlabathi made a proposal on behalf of the opposition parties.

They recommended that Ngcobo should be placed on precautionary suspension pending the investigation as that was in line with the local government legislation on the disciplining of senior managers.

“Before he is suspended, the municipal manager must be given an opportunity to make submissions to council to say why he must not be suspended,” said Nhlabathi.

Scelo Majozi made a counter proposal on behalf of the ANC, saying that Ngcobo should be given seven days to make written submission to council in response to the allegations that the SIU has levelled against him. The matter was put to a vote and the opposition parties lost.

IFP’s Bukelani Zuma tried to air their disappointment, saying the council seemed to be losing direction on matters but the ANC caucus shut him down. This led to the opposition parties walking out of the chamber.

The meeting could not continue as it was not quorate.

At the time of publication it was not yet clear whether another special council would be called today as some of the financial matters on Thursday’s agenda had to meet the January 31 deadline in order to comply with the relevant local government regulation.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  umgungundlovu district
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