Controversial acting Mpumalanga ANC secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali’s past as Emalahleni mayor is under scrutiny after the launch of a forensic investigation focusing on improprieties during her tenure. This is seen by some as a ploy to frustrate the social development MEC’s long-standing ambition of becoming the province’s premier.
Mpumalanga Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Busi Shiba last month appointed Analytical Forensic Investigation Services to investigate various incidents of graft that happened about four years ago. Some of the cases that had been investigated by the Emalahleni Local Municipality will also be looked into.
This, according to sources in the ANC and provincial government, indicated that Ntshalintshali, who has been eyeing the position of premier for some time and the top-five position at the upcoming elective conference, has become a pariah in some factions.
Ntshalintshali is aligned with acting ANC chairperson Mandla Ndlovu’s Focus lobby group, but the dredging up of old issues may indicate that she no longer enjoys good relations with the faction, which is also flirting with the idea of joining forces with Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane’s faction.
Ntshalintshali has never been close to the Ngci faction of Deputy President David Mabuza’s allies in the province. In any case, the Ngci faction has lost ground and power in the province after Mtshweni-Tsipane removed all the MECs aligned to it from her cabinet in a reshuffle last year.
“The writing is on the wall for Ntshalintshali, and this investigation indicates that she is out in the cold and no one is willing to protect her,” said an ANC insider.
Two other sources said that Ntshalintshali had not accepted Mtshweni-Tsipane’s appointment because she believed she deserved to be the first woman premier because she was senior.
“She is now being dealt with. The matters in Emalahleni are old and forgotten,” said one source.
According to Shiba’s letter to Emalahleni speaker Martha Hlumbane, the investigators would look into the following allegations:
- The payment of fixed travel allowances to directors. The directors, according to sources within the municipality, were allegedly paid a fixed monthly allowance of R50 000, irrespective of whether they had travelled the distance worth that amount or if they had not travelled at all;
- Inflated salaries for municipal manager Sizwe Mayisela and the directors. Ntshalintshali allegedly increased Mayisela’s salary from R1.5 million to R1.8 million in 2018, while chief financial officer Jabulile Hlatshwayo and the director of corporate services, Mandla Vilane, also enjoyed salary increases of R400 000 a year;
- Alteration of the labour forum decision by the managers when making presentations to council;
- Management appointing employees in an acting capacity outside the applicable policy and legislation;
- Outstanding municipal infrastructure grant projects; and
- Corruption and nepotism regarding the recruitment of employees from 2016, including the training of provincial traffic officers.
The municipality sent 20 trainees to the Mpumalanga Traffic College in Bushbuckridge last year, but the process benefited politicians’ relatives and associates. Although she was no longer Emalahleni mayor, her son Sithembiso Mbuli and nephew Sizwe Mabona were allegedly among the beneficiaries of the training.
Other trainees were councillors’ children, and wives and girlfriends of municipal politicians.
Ntshalintshali dismissed allegations that the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs was investigating the issues as baseless. She said the decision to investigate Emalahleni was not properly processed in Cabinet.
“It was just factions trying to tarnish my name as conferences were looming [and] to defocus my attention on the immediate task at hand,” she said.
Ntshalintshali said that all decisions during her tenure as mayor complied with local government legislation.
She said that, as executive mayor, she took an item for the compensation of directors for travelling purposes to council for review. Emalahleni municipality, she said, was not complying with gazetted upper limits.
“While employees received their yearly or annual negotiated salary increases, the municipal manager and section 56 managers [directors] did not receive any during the past three years,” she said, adding that she was not in the employment of government when the recruitment of trainee traffic officers was done.
“The question we should answer as South Africans is: [Do] our family members’ rights cease to exist when we assume [public] office?”
Mpumalanga cooperative governance department spokesperson Lindiwe Msibi said the investigation was ongoing.