The Maruleng municipal council assembled to consider several reports and addendums in order to take stock of the work covered since the last sitting. TheSpeaker of council opened proceedings and when the business had to commence members of the opposition objected to the manner in which issues were to be tabled for consideration. This caused some ructions until council agreed on a compromise that all other addendums be deferred and that only a report from the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) should be considered and debated.
The report of MPAC related to an issue of the appointment of a Manager Project Management Unit. The MPAC was authorized by a full council on the 22nd August 2017 to investigate allegations against the Municipal Manager in that he has processed the appointment irregularly. It was alleged that the manner in which the Municipal Manager effected the appointment led to him misleading council and using its authority improperly.
The report as tabled showed that indeed the post was advertised, forty four applicants applied, eight were shortlisted and interviewed on the 17th August 2017. The appointment of the successful candidate Mr. Yetambuyu Masilota was done on the same date of the 17th August 2017. The letter of appointment indicated that he will commence work with effect from the 21st August 2017 the same day in which verification of qualifications was done with SAQA’s National Leaners’ Records Database. On the same day that the incumbent started work he was given an additional responsibility for the position of Acting Director Technical Services.
As a result of these damning findings MPAC duly recommended that the post of PMU be dismissed with immediate effect, that all shortlisted posts be frozen, that the Municipal Manager be suspended for three (3) months for misleading council and that MPAC should investigate all other posts. These recommendations tore council into shreds as councilors started to frantically attempt to lull the murky waters and disagreeing on a number of approaches. Some of the councilors advised that it will be legally wrong for council to dismiss the incumbent as he is not responsible for the decision. This advice was therefore agreed to after some lengthy debates.
Then on the suspension of the Municipal Manager some of the councilors wanted him to be suspended forthwith whereas others opted for a verbal warning. The debates intensified until council unanimously agreed on the verbal warning. The Municipal Manager Mr. S.J Lethole was hauled before council for a verbal warning on the condition that such a malpractice should not recur. This was done behind closed doors as the gallery was cleared of the members of the public who attended the sitting. An ordinary council turned secret.
The MPAC report shows that three candidates were recommended for appointment with one female candidate having a Diploma in Civil Engineering and a Btech: Civil: Urban Engineering. The successful candidate has a Diploma in Civil Engineering. Perhaps it was on the basis of experience that he was preferred over the one with two Diplomas. Members of the opposition were still fuming about the fact that local applicants were overlooked and that the panel appointed a Zambian national. The Speaker had her hands full in trying to preside over a divided council and the interpretation of the rules became a slippery terrain for her as she often lost her cool. It became apparent therefore that council is having a massive challenge in implementing its mandate. Opposition members were caught between a rock and a hard place as they relented easily to the opinions of the governing ANC.
Then the circus ensued unannounced when council reconvened to consider other pertinent matters emanating from the main report. Accusations and counter accusations were thrown around until the situation got out of control. The Speaker lost her grip of her authority and councilors started talking even before they were allowed to do so. Slowly council degenerated into shambles and councilors started hurling insults at each other in a more harsh way. It immediately resembled a shebeen patronized by unruly young people. It was so discouraging to the point where members of the gallery were highly disturbed by these turn of events and couldn’t hide their dismay and uneasiness. In a nutshell the Maruleng municipal council lost it and every effort was made by the councilors to outshine each other.
ANC councilors were intensely frustrated by these developments and this was demonstrated by the fact that they twice requested for five minutes breaks to caucus which they were willingly granted by the Speaker. What was more apparent and glaringly visible were the mistrust and cracks in the ANC caucus. The Chief Whip of council was so mute until he was advised to provide direction which he reluctantly tried to do. It was embarrassingly clear that the Political Management Team is not in sync as to how council is run particularly as they come from the same party.
In as far as the interpretation of its mandate is concerned council failed dismally particularly as it related to the matter of the malpractice of the Municipal Manager. It is so because his conduct deserved a harsher sanction in that he deliberately used council authority to further his own agenda. That he wrote in the letter of appointment that council congratulate the appointed candidate five days before council could sit and ratify the recommendations is a clear indication that it operates according to the Municipal Manager’s orders. This therefore questions the ability of the opposition to read between the fine lines in order to ensure that good governance is not compromised.
The Maruleng municipal council is in a terminal state and service delivery will always be hamstrung by the inefficiency of the politicians to provide direction and leadership. The politicization of the administration will continue to haunt attempts on service delivery for a very long time. The Municipal Manager should be patting himself on the back for sailing through this rough tide. By relenting to his misconduct council has given him a leeway to do as he wishes from now henceforth. The opposition should revisit its mandate so that it doesn’t continue to rubber stamp positions of the governing party as it did on this matter.
015 0040 430
Politics & Governance