Sisulu axes another water board

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has dismissed the leaders of another state entity under her control, the board of Umgeni Water in KwaZulu-Natal.

Sisulu dissolved the board on July 31, claiming its members had been appointed irregularly by her predecessor, Gugile Nkwinti, who had extended their term by four years in May last year.

In a letter to board members, Sisulu said “the incorrect process was followed” in their appointment by Nkwinti. “I wish to apologise for the incorrect process that was followed when you were appointed as an ordinary member of the board of Umgeni Water. You would be aware that all appointments of the boards have to be approved by cabinet, which did not happen in this case.”

Sisulu said she had decided to appoint an interim board to ensure that the correct processes took place in appointing a new permanent board. “Therefore, I wish to confirm that it was decided to terminate the term of office of the board.” 

She said board members were welcome to apply for posts on the new board.

Earlier this year, Sisulu placed two other water entities — the Amatola Water Board in the Eastern Cape and Lepelle Northern Water in Limpopo — under administration. Both boards are the subject of investigations by the Special Investigation Unit.

Sisulu has also become embroiled in court battles with the leaders of the two entities, with claims being made in papers that her adviser, Mphumzi Mdekazi, had influenced water treatment tenders to illegally raise funds for her campaign for the ANC presidency at its 2022 elective conference.

Sisulu’s spokesperson, Yonela Diko, confirmed the Umgeni Water decision, saying that the axed board would hand over to an interim leadership appointed by Sisulu “in the near future”. Thereafter, a process to appoint a permanent board would start.

Diko said Sisulu had initiated a process of reviewing the boards under her ministry after she was appointed.

“She discovered that a couple of the boards, including the Umgeni board, had not been properly constituted as they did not have cabinet concurrence and had not been taken for approval. This means that they were not regularised and decided to take steps to ensure that the proper processes were followed.” 

Diko said although Sisulu was not happy with all of the Umgeni board’s decisions since the irregular extension took place, “this is not about corruption. This is purely an issue of the board not being properly constituted.” 

In May, Sisulu announced a major investigation into corruption in the department and its entities.

Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder referred all queries to the ministry because it had made the appointments.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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