Saga continues between KZN municipal manager and council over suspensions

2018-10-17 20:17
Nhlazuka, Richmond. (Supplied)

Nhlazuka, Richmond. (Supplied) (Nhlazuka, Richmond)

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Tensions remain high in the Richmond municipality in KwaZulu-Natal as the municipal manager and the council continue pointing fingers at each other over the manager's suspension.

The council on Wednesday accused municipal manager Bongiwe Mnikathi of refusing to obey their recent decision to suspend her when she reported for duty on Tuesday.

Deputy Mayor Khonziwe Mkhize said Mnikathi, who was suspended by the council on October 8, allegedly arrived at her office with "seven heavily armed bodyguards" and "broke the keys to her office".

Mnikathi's latest suspension was the second she faced this year. She was suspended three months ago after she was accused of maladministration and corruption.

Mnikathi was, however, granted an interim high court order on July 26 that overturned her first suspension.

"The council had taken a fresh decision based on different reasons, not the initial reasons for her (first) suspension. We respect the courts and will be in court on the 26th when the matter (for first suspension) is set down," said Mkhize.

One of the reasons for Mnikathi's second suspension was that on September 28 she arrived for the council meeting with unknown heavily armed men and insisted that they be allowed into the chamber, according to Mkhize.

Mkhize said Mnikathi and the men were denied permission to the chamber that day and they left.

She claimed that on the very same day Mnikathi claimed she received a threatening SMS. Mnikathi hasn't reported the SMS to the council, said Mkhize adding that they only heard about it from the media.

READ: KZN municipal manager says threatening SMS stems from 'internal matter'

Mnikathi previously told News24 that she received the text message threatening her life from an unknown number.

"I don't suspect anyone at the moment, but I believe that it has to do with the municipality's internal affairs," she said at the time.

Mnikathi, who took over from Sibusiso Sithole who was shot dead in March last year, said she had opened a case at the Alexandra Road police station in Pietermaritzburg soon after receiving the SMS.

Mkhize said the council would convene soon to deliberate the "saga" and discuss a case against Mnikathi which they had opened with police.

"This latest act by the municipal manager incensed councillors and officials alike. Police were called in to arrest her as it was clear she was trespassing. The police instead negotiated with the MM and her armed men to leave the premises, which she did. Clearly the MM doesn't respect the authority of the council," said Mkhize.

KZN police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that a case had been opened following Tuesday's incident.

"A case of malicious damage to property has been opened at the Richmond police station for investigation after an incident that allegedly occurred on 16 October 2018 in Shepstone Road, Richmond," said Gwala.

Mnikathi told News24 on Wednesday evening that she would not say much on the latest developments because her lawyers were handling the matter.

"I didn't just decide to wake up and go to work but I went there based on my legal team's advice following the court order that I was granted. I was advised that what they are doing is wrong, they are in contempt of court. They were told not to do anything until October 26," she said.

She denied that she broke into her office.

"The locks in my office have been changed. I only removed a chain that was on the door, took photographs and took it to my lawyers. I did not even go inside. I then went to open a case," she said, adding that she was concerned about the sensitive information in her office.

Mnikathi said the men she was with were the same private bodyguards she hired since receiving the threatening text. 

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