Sisulu takes a win in the battle of the boards

Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has won the latest of the series of legal battles in response to her review of the country’s water boards, which has seen a fightback by board members and executives of a number of the entities.

Sisulu has dissolved the boards of the Umgeni Water Board, Sedibeng Water and Magalies Water in recent months as part of a process of reviewing the entities under her control, mainly because their appointment by her predecessor, Gugile Nkwinti, had not been regularised by the cabinet.

She has also appointed an interim board at Lepelle Northern Water, whose chief executive officer, Phineas Legodi, was placed on precautionary suspension by the new board.

In the most recent legal clash, an attempt by Legodi to secure an urgent interdict against his precautionary suspension failed this week.

Legodi was placed on precautionary suspension on June 2. He then went to court to have the decision set aside and to challenge the appointment of an interim board at Lepelle by Sisulu in May. 


The board had suspended Legodi pending an investigation into irregularities at the entity under his leadership.

On Monday, the Pretoria high court found that Legodi had failed to prove any urgency in the application, which was the fourth he had brought against the board since his suspension. The court found Legodi’s conduct had been “tantamount to abuse of the court in the quest to obtain relief in the matter” as he had failed to mention the earlier applications, all of which had been dismissed.

The court found Legodi was suspended on full pay and was not suffering any prejudice because of the suspension, which was in place for the duration of the investigation, the outcome of which he could challenge.

He had also failed to prove that the board had been guilty of any acts of unlawful or wasteful expenditure, the court said.

Last week Umgeni Water board member Visvin Reddy and other members lodged an urgent application for an interdict in the Pietermaritzburg high court. This was after Sisulu dissolved it and appointed an interim board.

However, the court also ruled that the matter was not urgent and it was set down for August 26, when Sisulu’s opposing argument will be heard. 

In terms of the court order, Sisulu undertook that the board would not sit, or take any decisions, until after the matter went back to court.

Sisulu’s spokesperson, Yonela Diko, said that the minister welcomed the decision that the application, which she would oppose, was not urgent.

Diko said the department was “concerned by the sense of entitlement of various board members”, who had accepted the ministry’s invitation to serve, knowing that the minister had the right to remove them for a variety of reasons which includes efficiency, financial management and regularisation. 

Diko said Sisulu “noted” the decision by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration that Amatola Water had acted irregularly in suspending its chief executive officer, Vuyo Zitumane, on Sisulu’s instruction.

Diko said Sisulu would challenge the ruling, which he described as “bizarre” as she had not interfered in the board’s decisions around suspending Zitumane, which it had taken by itself.

“The minister does not suspend, hire or fire employees of water boards. That remains solely the task of the board,”’ Diko said.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

Related stories

‘People the same as pigs’ in the Vaal

The water and sanitation department has taken over the clean-up project while sewage continues to pollute the Vaal River and Emfuleni municipality

Amatola Water boss charged with organising protests

Amatola Water has charged its suspended chief executive, Vuyo Zitumane, for allegedly manipulating procurement processes and orchestrating protests against the board by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) to disrupt Amatola’s operations

Free state municipality gets a paint job instead of water services

Maluti-A-Phofung council report wants former municipal manager to pay back the money he spent on communications company that was meant to establish a call centre for the QwaQwa community

‘Shack’ agency remains leaderless

Former Mvelaphanda head gets another six months at the helm of the Housing Development Agency

Phineas Legodi resigns from water board after latest court defeat

Lepelle Northern Water chief executive Phineas Legodi throws in the towel after losing fourth interdict application

Greed has an insatiable thirst

The water department says even water tankers are not immune to the selfish acts of Covidpreneurs
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Durban city manager says NPA erred in his bail conditions

The corruption-fraught metro is coming to grips with having a municipal manager who is on bail for graft, yet has returned to work

Why anti-corruption campaigns are bad for democracy

Such campaigns can draw attention to the widespread presence of the very behaviour they are trying to stamp out — and subconsciously encourage people to view it as appropriate

Tax, wage bill, debt, pandemic: Mboweni’s tightrope budget policy statement

The finance minister has to close the jaws of the hippo and he’s likely to do this by tightening the country’s belt, again.

SA justice delays extradition of paedophile to UK

Efforts to bring Lee Nigel Tucker to justice have spanned 16 years and his alleged victims have waited for 30 years
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday