ANC member Thandekile Mnyimba was appointed Oudtshoorn's municipal manager in January, despite being judged the least suitable of the five candidates who were shortlisted and interviewed for the position.
One of the unsuccessful candidates, Allan Paulse, also an ANC member, approached the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town shortly after Mnyimba's appointment and asked it to review and set aside the appointment.
The court ruled in Paulse's favour and declared Mnyimba's appointment invalid because he did not meet the position's minimum competency levels.
Mnyimba was viewed as the best candidate in the interviews by a selection committee of the council. But he was regarded as faring the worst among the candidates in all the other assessments, managed by independent psychologist Dr Riël Hugo.
In the court papers, Paulse claimed that he had received reliable information to the effect that ANC provincial treasurer Fezile Calana had instructed the members of the selection committee to appoint Mnyimba as municipal manager.
The court declined to rule on the issue of alleged political interference.
Mnyimba, with the support of the municipality, dug in his heels and refused to go. The municipality launched an application to appeal the court decision, despite a council meeting of July 26 voting that the court ruling be adhered to.
The ANC-led council even procured the services of well-known senior counsel advocate Norman Arendse in the fight to keep Mnyimba. But not even Arendse could tell them what they wanted to hear. According to sources, Arendse told the municipal management that it did not have a case and should settle.
On November 1 the municipality conceded and withdrew its application for leave to appeal against the June 1 judgment and order. It was also agreed that the municipality would pay Paulse's costs in the application for leave to appeal.
It is unclear how much the municipality spent on protecting Mnyimba. It refused to answer questions about the costs of the case because, it said, it was awaiting the court order. But the court order, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, has nothing to do with the costing of the case.
The municipality also refused to say whether Mnyimba would pay back the salary he was paid between June 1, when his appointment was ruled invalid, and November 1, when he left.
ANC sources in the southern Cape claim there are plans to pay Mnyimba a severance package, but it is not clear on what grounds this could be done. The municipality also refused to answer questions about this issue.
The Democratic Alliance estimates the costs to be about R1.5-million. DA council member Chris McPherson said the party was concerned not only about the exorbitant fees, but also about the legal consequence of Mnyimba's prolonged stay as municipal manager.
He said the party expected a number of legal challenges against the municipality. "The court ruled his appointment null and void. That means every decision he took is null and void. Any tender or contract he signed or staff appointments he made could be deemed null and void."
Paulse said the case had been a matter of principle. "We are a constitutional democracy. We must try to uphold at all times our own legislation. Otherwise, we might as well close shop."