A KwaZulu-Natal municipal manager has been reinstated after he was suspended and subjected to a disciplinary hearing by an administrator who used a forensic audit report’s findings he had no powers to commission.
Elphus Dladla, the administrator of Abaqulusi Local Municipality in Vryheid, suspended municipal manager Bonga Ntanzi on July 4 2019 and subsequently charged him with:
- Being dishonest in his job application and contravening the municipality’s job evaluation policy;
- Fraudulent appointment of the legal services manager;
- Contravention of disciplinary regulations for a senior manager;
- Financial misconduct with regards to irregular salary offers; and
- Gross misconduct with regards to approving the appointment of the tourism officer.
The charges were based on the findings of a forensic investigation that was done by NMK Forensics in November 2019, when Ntanzi was on suspension.
The KwaZulu-Natal High Court has found that Dladla had no powers to unilaterally suspend senior managers without the council’s approval.
Abaqulusi is led by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
The noise about Ntanzi started when the ANC’s Mzala region marched against the municipality, detailing the allegations that were followed up by NMK Forensics. On the other hand, the administration decided on by the ANC-led cabinet was not well-received.
Last week Ntanzi said he was delighted that the matter had been finally put to rest and claimed that it was politically motivated.
“It has been an emotional roller-coaster. I feel angry on the one side because of the time wasted. Looking at the whole nine months not working, my integrity was tarnished and dragged through the mud.’
“This was a smear political campaign. I know this for a fact because I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth ... not that there was anything really that I did of which I was being accused of,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Senzelwe Mzila, however, hinted that the matter might be far from over.
“The department is still studying the judgment on Ntanzi and will decide on appropriate action once this exercise is done. The municipality is still under administration,” Mzila said.
Ntanzi returned to work September 13 2019, when he was called by acting mayor Mncedisi Maphisa because three months had lapsed and a disciplinary hearing had not been held.
KwaZulu-Natal Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka then went to the high court to stop Ntanzi’s reinstatement, but the application was dismissed with costs.
“In my view,” said Judge Rich Seegobin, “there is no single provision in the letter which permitted Dladla to suspend officials of the municipality and/or to subject them to disciplinary proceedings. Given the nature of the intervention in terms of section 139, I hold that the entire municipal structure remain intact and is required to continue its day-to-day functions, subject to the provincial executive keeping a close watch over its activities.”
“By placing Ntanzi on precautionary suspension without the council’s involvement and approval, I consider that Dladla acted ultra vires the powers conferred upon him in terms of the notice of intervention.”
Hlomuka failed in his application for leave to appeal the decision.
The KwaZulu-Natal cabinet then took a resolution to give the administrator more powers to be able to pursue disciplinary action against Ntanzi or any senior manager in the municipality.
A disciplinary committee convened on December 29 2020 found Ntanzi not guilty based on the NMK report and found that his suspension was invalid. The committee found that the appointment of NMK formed part and parcel of the actions that were not authorised, and accordingly invalid.
“Therefore the report of NMK is forbidden fruit, it cannot be eaten. If anyone suggest that it must be eaten, such person commits the wrongs that are in the same standing as the wrongs that were committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden,” reads the report.