Residents of the Matlosana local municipality in North West have approached lawyers to force the municipality to remove its municipal manager, claiming that he failed to disclose his alleged criminal record.
Theetsi Nkhumise was seconded to the municipality in 2016 as acting municipal manager while the municipality was under administration. That position was made permanent in May 2017. The municipality’s annual report says he earns close to R1.5-million a year.
The advertisement for his job was clear:the applicant must not have a criminal record. The Mail & Guardian has a copy of the advertisement, which states that the contract is for five years, that the applicant must have a valid driver’s license and “NO criminal record”.
But Nkhumise allegedly has a criminal record for a tax-related crime. And it has taken concerned citizens to force the municipality to start an investigation into why he was able to be appointed without declaring it.
The matter has also been reported to the Hawks. Its spokesperson, Hangwani Mulaudzi, confirmed to the M&G that an inquiry has been opened.
All of this is happening against the backdrop of a province where service delivery has collapsed while political infighting has left the North West hotly contested ahead of the May 8 elections.
The Matlosana local municipality, which includes the once-bustling mining town of Matlosana (formerly known as Klerksdorp), has been wrapped up in this infighting. Last October, the town’s mayor, Maetu Kgaile, was voted out in a motion of no confidence, only to be reinstated three weeks later.
The municipality is now trying to clean itself up. It went into partial administration in 2013 and then full administration in 2014. This was because of extensive corruption in numerous departments, as well as infrastructure backlogs and ghost employees draining the fiscus. It only came out of administration in 2016.
But some residents say the clean-up process is being undermined by the appointment of a municipal manager who they say has a criminal record.
According to letters seen by the M&G — written by Khotso Baloyi, the lawyer for a group of concerned residents, and addressed to the office of the municipal mayor and speaker — the group is demanding that the council convene a special sitting to discuss why the municipal manager did not disclose his criminal record. The letter also demands the suspension of Nkhumise.
It reads: “The incumbent municipal manager [Nkhumise] was found guilty and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. In view of the position that the incumbent holds as a result of the appointment, his failure to disclose his previous conviction has led to the whole recruitment process being tainted and thus led the municipality to take a decision that may well have been different had the previous conviction been disclosed.”
In a written response to the M&G, through his office as a municipal manager, Nkhumise says he was never imprisoned: “Nkhumise was never sentenced to imprisonment, but rather the matter was resolved and settled with Sars [the South African Revenue Service]. He was never imprisoned or served any prison sentence.”
He added that the vetting process did not find any criminal record and that his appointment met all requirements in terms of qualifications, experience and the outcome of the competency test.
A lawyer’s letter on behalf of the speaker and mayor, responding to Baloyi, states that the municipality cannot take disciplinary action against the senior manager until a full investigation is done.
A high-ranking council member, who did not want to be named, said the council could not remove Nkhumise without following due process. “We have received the complaint that he has a criminal record, but the council needs to sit so we can discuss it. The onus is on him to prove he doesn’t have a criminal record and currently he has not given a clear response as to what happened.”
The residents who filed the complaint are, however, impatient. Baloyi says he has been instructed to file papers with the Mafikeng high court urgently.
“We will cite the respondents as the MEC for local government, the mayor, the speaker of the council and Nkhumise. We will be asking the court to proclaim the appointment invalid because of the non-disclosure.”
Baloyi added that the council was meant to sit on April 30 to discuss the non-disclosure but didnot, and he was not given reasons why.
“My clients feel that the municipality is not taking this matter seriously,” he said.
Nkhumise was also the municipal manager ofthe Moretele local municipality, north of Pretoria. The municipality gave money to the now defunct VBS Mutual Bank.
In February, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) proclamation to investigate allegations of corruption in the municipality dating back to 2016 when Nkhumise was in charge.
When Moretele municipal spokesperson Mothupi Malebye was contacted about why Nkhumise was moved to another municipality, he said he could not comment because theformer manager was no longer an employee of the municipality.
“On the issue of the SIU, the employees are cooperating, and we will wait for the outcome. The matter of VBS is now in the office of the presidency,” he said.