How politicians 'frog-marched' a CEO out of her office

accreditation
Aspire CEO Akhona Tinta. Photo: Aspire
Aspire CEO Akhona Tinta. Photo: Aspire

NEWS


Details have emerged about how political heavyweights at a cash-strapped Eastern Cape municipality attempted to swiftly remove the chief executive officer (CEO) and a board of its municipal agency.

City Press has seen the founding affidavit of Akhona Tinta, CEO of Amathole Economic Development Agency (Aspire), dated November 9 filed at the East London High Court against a decision taken by Amathole District Municipality (ADM) to terminate her contract on October 13.

Tinta went to court to interdict ADM's decision to appoint acting CEO Xolani Nondwangu.

However, the court temporarily ruled in favour of Tinta.

ADM’s executive mayor Anele Ntsangani had declined to comment on the merits of the matter, saying they had until December 13 to file their opposing papers on why the order should not be made final.

READ: Cash-strapped EC council 'double' CEO appointment set aside

But Ntsangani said at the time that the council did not recognise the recruitment process that led to Tinta’s appointment at a council meeting held on October 13.

This, he said, was because there was a recruitment report submitted to the council by the previous agency’s board.

"Accordingly, the council unanimously agreed to appoint an interim CEO for three months," Ntsangani said.

Interference’

However, a trail of events painted by Tinta in her founding affidavits detailed a different picture.

In her papers, Tinta argued that the board – not ADM – should have led the process of Nondwangu’s secondment.

Tinta said she acted twice on the post before she was permanently appointed.

First, she acted on July 1 2019 while the previous CEO was on suspension. This stint ended on May 31 2022.

READ: Councillor’s assault speaks of the rot in the ANC – Oscar Mabuyane

Her second acting stint commenced on June 1 and ended on October 21.

At the time of secondments, Tinta said she has been a strategic planning and management director since November 1 2017.

Tinta argued: 

The power to second officials from its staff establishment to act as CEO of its municipal entity is at the discretion of the first respondent [ADM] and may only be exercised at the instance of the board of directors and in circumstances where a serving CEO is incapacitated from discharging his or her duties.

When she was appointed the CEO, Tinta said a legitimate expectation existed that she would be allowed to discharge her duties "at the behest of the board without hindrance or interruption until such time that she dies, resigns, her contract being terminated by effluxion of time or discharged from my employment after a disciplinary process".

Imposed

Contrary to this expectation, Tinta said she was horrified by the arrival of Ntsangani and his entourage at her office on November 2 "with a clear intention of constructively dismissing me from my employment" by introducing Nondwangu as acting CEO.

This, she said, was while her contract of employment had not expired and was still valid.

Tinta added: 

On his arrival, the second respondent [Ntsangani] first introduced the ‘interim board’ of the fifth respondent [Aspire]. More perplexing was the introduction of the interim board while the term of office of the existing board had not expired.

She said the existing board was only appointed on January 1 for three years.

"While the appointment of an interim board on top of an existing board is so outrageous in its defiance of formal logic that no reasonable man can ever dream of doing, such is not my call and is certainly not my cause of complaint in this application. However, for a small entity like the fifth respondent [Aspire] to have two boards of directors and two CEOs is just absurd and is beyond comprehension," Tinta argued.

Nondwangu, she said, was superimposed without consultation of whatever nature.

"He was just superimposed without the knowledge of the board, which bears the ultimate accounting responsibility for the business of the fifth respondent [Aspire]."

Reports

Following a virtual shortlisting of candidates on August 31, virtual interviews were held on September 6.

A special board sitting on September 19 approved her appointment.

On the same date, Tinta said ADM councillor Xhanti Mngxaso enquired from the board chairperson Professor Chris Adendorff about her appointment.

A correspondence was received from Ntsangani on September 21 about her appointment with a demand for Adendorff to respond within 48 hours.

A meeting was scheduled with the mayor for October 3. 

READ: Union: Workers won’t show up to work at broke Amathole municipality if not paid

"The chairperson responded to the correspondence of September 22 2022 by means of a letter, highlighting time constraints, which,unfortunately, did not allow the submission of the response, reports, plans and documents referred to in the mayor’s correspondence of September 23."

The meeting was attended by Ntsangani, Adendorff and ADM’s chief whip Nonceba Mfecane and it was resolved that a report by Adendorff on her recruitment be submitted within 48 hours.

Tinta said: 

The report was emailed to the executive mayor’s personal email and his personal assistant by the chairperson of the board, together with my employment contract on October 5 2022.

Tinta then detailed events, which she said proved that ADM did not only have knowledge of her appointment but also participated fully in the process.

"It would seem that in all its machinations, the first respondent [ADM] had lost sight of the fact that it lacks the requisite competence to terminate my employment contract. By interfering with my employment and seeking to terminate it, the first respondent has acted beyond the scope of its powers and exercised a power that it does not have," Tinta said.


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Latest issue
Latest issue
All the news from City Press in PDF form.
Read now
Voting Booth
Damaged traffic lights and load shedding have led to a mushrooming of informal traffic controllers – mostly homeless people or beggars – in Joburg's major intersections. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
We need them
17% - 6 votes
Deploy professionals
47% - 17 votes
They pose more disorder
22% - 8 votes
They must be paid
14% - 5 votes
Vote