Appointment of ‘incompetent’ Mahikeng manager unlawful, court finds

The “unlawful” appointment of a Mahikeng municipal manager who was hired despite being less qualified than his rivals, in a municipality battling R2-billion in wasted funds and crumbling infrastructure, has been set aside by the North West high court. 

Judge Samkelo Gura ruled this week that the local municipality acted unlawfully and irrationally when it appointed Mike Mokgwamme as the municipal manager in June last year, ahead of two better qualified candidates also vying for the post. 

The Mail & Guardian reported in April that Mokgwamme had scored a “basic” mark, which is the lowest score, in a competency test conducted by an independent assessor prior to his appointment. Mokgwamme, according to official documents seen by the M&G, was the least qualified of the shortlisted candidates. 

Prior to his appointment, Mokgwamme had served as municipal manager in an acting capacity from June 2019 until his permanent posting in June 2020, according to his CV, which the M&G has seen. 

Municipal regulations on minimum competency levels, which are part of the Municipal Systems Act, state that senior managers should be rated competent in financial and supply-management as well as managerial and occupational competencies. 

Gura ruled that “the municipality had no power” to overlook candidates who passed their competency tests in consideration of a senior managerial post in favour of someone who scored “basic”. 

“It therefore follows that if candidate A scores basic and [their] two opponents B and C are successful in the competency assessment, candidate A automatically drops from the race at that stage even before reaching the finishing line in the race track. [They] cannot be considered for appointment because there are two best candidates above [them],” Gura said, setting aside Mokgwamme’s appointment. 

“The contract of employment entered into between the first respondent and the fifth respondent is declared unlawful and is hereby set aside,” the judge added, ordering the municipality to pay the cost of the application. 

The application was brought by Moatlhodi Dilotsotlhe, who declined to comment when contacted by the M&G this week. 

Speaking on behalf of the municipality and Mokgwamme, Mahikeng spokesperson Johnny Nkoane said: “Mahikeng local municipality acknowledges receipt of the judgement handed down and the municipality is in the process of engaging our legal representative to assess and study the judgment and provide us with a legal opinion as to what process should be followed. At this stage the matter is still sub judice.”

When asked how a matter could still be “sub judice” when the courts had finalised the case, Nkoane responded: “The matter is with the lawyers [and] I can’t divulge anything more.” 

Mahikeng incurred R2-billion in unauthorised and irregular expenditure during part of Mokgwamme’s acting tenure, and the auditor general painted a worrying picture of the municipality being able to continue as a going concern. The municipality has a cash deficit of R132-million with current liabilities exceeding assets. 

This was contained in the 2018-19 municipal financial results that were released by the auditor general’s office last year. 

When the M&G visited Mahikeng this year, it displayed all the traits of a failed municipality, with evidence of children living in the streets susceptible to rape by older men after a R55-million centre meant to house them was closed in July 2019.

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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