The new acting manager of the City of Mbombela, Neil Diamond, has been given the green light to continue in his job despite a chequered past.
The screening process conducted by the integrity management unit in Premier David Mabuza’s office found that Diamond did not have a criminal record and could therefore take up the position.
The province’s department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) appointed Diamond two weeks ago in a bid to rescue the cash-strapped city after it struggled to deal with its mounting debts.
The municipality had been failing to pay workers and service providers on time.
Cogta head of department Peter Nyoni said: “He has no criminal case. He has been cleared. The argument that will be advanced is that there are certain people who know something that we don’t know as a department.”
Diamond, who applied for the position when it was advertised, is likely to be employed permanently after his 18-month acting contract expires. The department decided to appoint a caretaker manager while the process to stabilise the municipality takes place, thereafter a manager will be appointed on a fixed five-year term.
Diamond, however, comes with baggage from the City of Ekurhuleni, where he served as an ANC councillor and had a second job as an estate agent.
Diamond and his business partner, Sydney Rean Booysen, allegedly defrauded his previous employer of about R40 million in a land swap deal in 2006.
The deal saw Booysen’s companies – Hometalk Developments (Pty) Ltd, Afropulse 132 (Pty) Ltd and King Trade Investment 100010 (Pty) Ltd – swapping their less valuable 55.3 hectares of land with Ekurhuleni’s for the Meyersdal Nature Estate up-market housing development in 2006 despite objections from the municipality’s corporate and legal affairs department.
Diamond also owned a 20% stake in Afropulse.
The swap deal cost Ekurhuleni about R40 million because the three companies’ piece of land, Elandsfontein, was 47% less valuable than the municipality’s Klipriviersberg.
Only 32.8 hectares of Elandsfontein could be developed because the rest was environmentally sensitive.
Mpumalanga EFF leader Collen Sedibe has written to Cogta MEC Refilwe Mtshweni for an explanation regarding Diamond’s appointment, which he said was “irrational” and “irregular”.