Sisulu to appeal Umgeni board court ruling

Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu intends to appeal a high court ruling declaring her dissolution of the Umgeni Water Amanzi board unlawful, which was made when she was the water and sanitation minister.

This is despite the fact that Sisulu no longer holds the portfolio and that the current water and sanitation minister, Senzo Mchunu, has begun a process of implementing the court order and removing the interim Umgeni water board that Sisulu appointed last year.

Last week the high court in Pietermaritzburg ruled that Sisulu had acted unlawfully and ignored procedure by simply dissolving the board and appointing an interim one in its stead.

Three sources close to the process said Mchunu had already started a process to lawfully dissolve the boards by following the process that Sisulu had ignored.

“The minister wrote to them and asked them to provide reasons why their board should not be dissolved. He wants the whole process wrapped up by the end of the month,”’ one of the sources said. “He is following the process, which Sisulu was meant to have followed, because he wants to do this properly, with no comeback legally.”

The court found that Sisulu had dissolved the board on the grounds that it had not been ratified by the cabinet, but then failed to have the cabinet certify the interim board, chaired by Magasela Mzobe, a former ANC Youth League leader.

This, Judge Piet Koen said, meant the interim board was an unlawful structure, which would itself have to be dissolved as it was not property constituted in terms of the Water Services Act.

Sisulu dissolved the Umgeni board along with those of a number of water and sanitation and human settlements entities on the grounds that she was cleaning up corruption. She had been appointed to the portfolio in 2019.

The court found that Sisulu should have followed due process and given the board written notice to provide reasons as to why it should not be dissolved.

Her actions sparked claims that Sisulu was laying the ground for a campaign for the ANC presidency in 2022 by appointing leaders of the radical economic transformation faction in the ruling party to plum posts in the entities under her control.

Umgeni board member Visvin Reddy and his colleagues took Sisulu to court and won their application to have her decision reviewed and set aside last week.

Sisulu’s spokesperson, Steve Motale, said on Monday that after “careful consideration”, Sisulu and her legal team believed the judgment to be “fundamentally flawed” and would be appealing the ruling.

But, last week Mchunu met the board in the wake of the court judgment and informed them that he would be initiating a process of dissolving the board.

Mchunu subsequently wrote to the members of the interim board, giving them until 31 October to show why they should not be removed from office over the unlawful and unprocedural appointment.

Mchunu’s spokesperson, Kamogelo Mogotsi, said he would comment in due course.

It is not yet clear whether the boards of other entities — including the Housing Development Agency — will be following in the footsteps of the Umgeni board and challenging their dissolution by Sisulu.

Umgeni Water will not be challenging the high court ruling.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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