Fate of municipal manager who stole R120 000 to be decided soon

The future of Mpumalanga’s Ehlanzeni District Municipality boss could be decided this month following a damning report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Madonsela’s report, titled Free Money For All that was released in December alleged that, among other things, Ehlanzeni municipal manager Hugh Mbatha stole R120 000 from the municipality.

The money, the Public Protector found, was left over after he ordered a finance official to transfer R165 500 into a credit card of the council’s international relations deputy manager, Roy Makwakwa, while a municipal delegation was in Italy.

Mbatha did not report the expenditure to council after the delegation returned from Italy and divided it among himself and three delegates, the Madonsela found.

The money, said a delegate, was for food as they did not like “pizza” and “leaves” that their hosts offered them.

Madonsela also found Mbatha took a delegation on a R1 million unauthorised trip to Brazil in March 2009 to prepare Nelspruit to host the 2010 World Cup, and gave a bursary to a volunteer who was not employed by the council.

The Ehlanzeni council gave the report to the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) to make a decision on what to do with Madonsela’s findings.

Municipal spokesperson Lucky Ngomane said the MPAC was busy consolidating its final report, which could be tabled at the next council meeting later this month.

“They may even call a special council meeting as soon as they are done,” Ngomane said.

DA councillor Graveth Herbst said the MPAC’s meetings to deal with this matter had been postponed a few times since February 25.

“There’s a preliminary report on this matter. Hopefully the meeting scheduled for Monday next week will take place. In my opinion they’re playing around ... they know what they should do,” Herbst said.

Meanwhile, Mbatha has been trying everything to clear his name.

Last month, he charged administrative officer Nontobeko Nkosi for misconduct after accusing her of leaking information to City Press.

Mbatha accused Nkosi of divulging confidential information and providing exaggerated, incorrect and misleading information to a City Press journalist on September 26, October 3 and December 4 last year.

The Hawks have confirmed that they are investigating Mbatha on fraud charges.

As part of the campaign to clear his name, Mbatha also splurged R200 000 of council money on newspaper adverts.

In the adverts published in local newspapers and City Press, Mbatha accused journalists – including this one – of lacking “ethics and integrity” because they did not highlight Madonsela’s findings that vindicated him.

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