Businesswoman Dudu Myeni could remain chair of the Mhlathuze Water Board despite a court ruling in December that it should be dissolved.
This is after Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane asked for permission to appeal the judgment. If granted, this would automatically extend Myeni’s period as the chair of the board.
Mokonyane filed papers at the Pietermaritzburg High Court last month, asking a full bench of the same court or the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) to rule that Judge Yvonne Mbatha erred in finding that the Myeni-led board be dissolved and a new one appointed by the end of May.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling came after an application by Mhlathuze Water’s suspended chief executive officer (CEO), Sibusiso Makhanya, who asked for the court’s intervention after the board suspended him in November 2015.
In court papers, Makhanya argued that the board had no right to suspend him on the grounds that its four-year term had expired in February 2015. Also, it had no authority because Mokonyane had illegally extended the term of office of board members in February 2015 by six months, and again in July the same year, for an indefinite period.
Makhanya argued that Myeni, who was appointed in 2002, was an illegitimate chairperson who had already served the maximum of three terms.
In new court papers, the department’s entity oversight chief director, Thoko Sigwaza, submitted that the case affected many other entities where the minister also extended the term of office of board members, including the Umgeni Water Board.
“This was in line with the department’s intention to merge the Umgeni Water Board with the 13th respondent [Mhlathuze Water],” she wrote.
However, Makhanya also launched his own appeal, asking the full bench of the same court or the SCA to rule that Judge Mbatha should have dissolved Myeni’s board forthwith. He also contended that an order should have directed Mokonyane to appoint an interim board instead of giving the Myeni board an additional six months to wrap up its business.
A senior official in the department of water and sanitation said the instruction to appeal “may have come from above” because, a month ago, Mokonyane’s decision was not to appeal.
“There must have been pressure from somewhere meant to make the board stay there,” the source said.
Another official close to Mokonyane said the courts would most likely grant permission to appeal.
“When the issue is the interpretation of the act, courts are more inclined to grant appeals. Whether or not she will win is something else,” said the official.
Meanwhile, Myeni is also fending off another court bid to eject her as the chair of state-owned SAA’s board. Earlier this month, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse filed a lawsuit aimed at having Myeni declared a “delinquent director”.
If successful, Myeni could be disqualified from filling any directorship or executive position in any organisation in South Africa for at least seven years.