/ 16 July 2020

ANC heavy ‘stops’ municipal probe

Tsietsi Roger Nkhumise
Troubling past: Papers have been filed in the high court asking that municipal manager Tsietsi Roger Nkhumise be removed from his post.

Deputy minister David Mahlobo allegedly visited ANC councillors at the Matlosana municipality in October to “persuade” them to not suspend and investigate the municipal manager.

The Hawks arrested Tsietsi Roger Nkhumise less than three months later in relation to an R8-million tender. He has appeared in the Klerksdorp magistrate’s court, with his latest appearance scheduled for today (July 17). 

But he still holds his position in the North West municipality. 

Council members are irate because when they tried to have Nkhumise suspended and investigated, they were stopped by what they call “blatant political interference”.

In the latest report by the auditor general, the municipality is flagged for accumulating more than R3-billion in irregular expenditure.

And Nkhumise is no stranger to allegations of illegal activity. 

The Mail & Guardian reported in May last year that Klerksdorp residents had demanded that he be removed as municipal manager, because he has a criminal record related to tax. Nkhumise denied these allegations. 

Then came allegations of gross tender irregularities in a number of contracts that were awarded.

In September last year, councillors sent a special resolution to the mayor, Maetu Kgaile, and the speaker, Washington Ntozini, that Nkhumise be suspended. The letter states: “Allegations include but are not limited to financial misconduct in his capacity as the municipal manager.

“The nature and seriousness thereof, compels council to place the municipal manager on precautionary suspension while conducting investigations against him.”

When contacted by the M&G, the speaker denied knowledge of the resolution. 

In October, Mahlobo — who had recently been given a backseat as a deputy minister of human settlements, water and sanitation — allegedly pitched up at the municipality. 

Four ANC councillors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the former state security minister convened a meeting at the municipal boardroom with the mayoral committee and ANC councillors.

Those four remember the day very well. Mahlobo’s message was simple: placing Nkhumise on suspension was not the ANC way. 

This is in line with similar ANC decisions on people accused of crimes, and is contrary to a

party decision taken at its last elective conference that people with criminal records should step aside.

One of the four said: “David [Mahlobo] told us we must not make decisions that are not aligned with the ANC. It seems normal that politicians can intervene like that, but it is not right. 

“It is not lawful for them to do that because then we cannot play our oversight role. Look where we are now,” — a reference to the municipal manager being arrested and still working in the municipality.

Another of the four said Mahlobo’s visit shook them and the resolution to suspend Nkhumise was withdrawn in council. 

“I am still baffled by what happened back then. Our party refuses for there to be consequence management for some people,” said the third ANC councillor.

“We can’t do our work, we live in fear. Six ANC councillors’ houses were burned after the resolution was announced. This is all for one man.” 

Contacted by the M&G, Mahlobo said he needed more information and that the reporter was “unprofessional” for not giving him enough time to respond. 

“Before I answer those questions I want to know details about this meeting you are talking about and how I allegedly threatened these council members.” 

After a lengthy back and forth, he dropped the call and sent an SMS stating that he is not a member of the Matlosana council and has never addressed it or impeded it in carrying out its fiduciary duties. 

He added that, as a national executive committee member of the ANC, he was sent to deal with the opposition’s vote of no confidence in the mayor. 

“At no stage were we sent to deal with a matter of MM [municipal manager]”. 

Mahlobo did not respond to questions about his visit to the Matlosana municipality in October. 

Speaker Ntozini said he was not aware of any council member raising problems with Nkhumise, nor the resolution signed by the chief whip to suspend and investigate the municipal manager, nor the meeting with Mahlobo in October. 

Ntozini said: “Check with the mayor as I do not hold oversight over the MM.” 

Pule Mabe, the spokesperson for the ANC, did not respond to repeated requests for comment on why Mahlobo was allegedly at the municipality or if it was party protocol to intervene in administrative municipal matters.

Ntswaki Makgetha, the municipal spokesperson, said Mahlobo had not addressed any council meeting nor instructed any councillors to refrain from fulfilling their oversight roles.

“As [an] NEC member any questions related to his role as ANC deployee in Matlosana must be forwarded to the ANC spokesperson.”

She added that the mayor had written to the municipal manager requesting a written explanation about the allegations levelled against him and that she sent another letter to the speaker requesting him to call the council meeting. Yet speaker Ntozini said no one had raised the issue of the Nkhumise.

The failure to act, or admit knowledge of any complaints about Nkhumise has seen the council members being dragged to court for failure to start an investigation into Nkhumise.

Papers filed with the high court sitting in Mahikeng by a Matlosana resident, Lawrence Mabunda, ask the court to remove Nkhumise and interdict him from performing his duties as a municipal manager because of the allegations of financial malfeasance and that he was appointed despite allegedly having a criminal record.

“It is in the best interest of the community at large and clean governance that the current municipal manager is set aside by this court as there has been various conduct of impropriety with impunity,” read the papers.

Mabunda states that irregular contracts have been flagged by the auditor general and numerous criminal cases have been opened against municipal manager Nkhumise.

Matlosana council flouts financial controls

The City of Matlosana local municipality in the North West is one of the “top” five municipalities in terms of highest irregular expenditure, at R3-billion accumulated over a number of years. The municipality has also been singled out for failing to investigate the irregularities.

“While the municipality has been one of the better-performing municipalities in the past, the financial statements show a rapidly regressing financial situation,” stated the auditor general’s report on local government for 2018-2019 and issued earlier this month.

The report noted that the local government culture in the North West is characterised by a lack of discipline in the basic internal controls required to manage financial and performance records, and senior management that is unwilling to implement the auditor general’s recommendations. 

According to the report, internal audit units and audit committees are rendered ineffective by unresponsive municipal managers, and councils tasked with oversight lack the political will to effect consequences. “It remains a concern that accountability keeps on deteriorating”, the report stated.