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Payout, after payout, after payout – employees, contractors walk away with millions from municipality

2019-11-26 23:40

Despite resisting at first, politicians in a strife-torn Limpopo municipality changed their minds and paid R1.4 million owed to an employee who was unfairly dismissed in 2016.

Their about-turn could have been a way of avoiding further embarrassment.

The sheriff had already attached and removed the Fetakgomo Greater Tubatse municipality’s four trucks and four graders valued at R1.5 million when it decided to comply with SA Local Bargaining Council commissioner Richard Sithi’s award to former human resources manager Charity Rabada.

Rabada’s woes began in 2016 when the Greater Tubatse and Fetakgomo municipalities were being merged.

She was dismissed for gross insubordination in September 2016 when she protested against being suspended by the municipality’s former employee, Nkgolo Shai, who was seconded from the Sekhukhune District Municipality as corporate services director to help in the process of merging the two municipalities.

Shai’s three-month contract, Sithi found, had already expired when he suspended Rabada for writing an email to staff members disputing that she had issued letters of promotion to certain employees after the new municipality was formed.

The letters of promotion came from Shai.

Sithi ruled that Rabada be reinstated by September 1 and should have been paid an amount of R1 482 652.84 by no later than August 31.

The municipality, however, dilly-dallied on implementing the award and tried to apply for a review in the Labour Court, which was turned down.

Thabiso Mokwena, spokesperson for the Greater Tubatse and Fetakgomo municipality, changed his tune after initially denying two weeks ago that Rabada had attached the municipality’s assets.

“The matter has been resolved and municipal assets returned on the 20th November 2019. We are appealing that the rights of the employer and employee be respected in this regard,” Mokwena said last week.

He said Rabada’s lawyer had been told that she should return to work, but she had not done so. Rabada was not available to comment.

Another former employee, Shamrock Sithodolo, a senior building inspector, won his unfair dismissal case and an award that ordered his reinstatement by June 18 last year, but the municipality decided to take the matter on review.

Sithodolo was dismissed for misconduct for approving the construction of a business building before the council approved the plans.

“I will not talk much until I get the judgment. I’m more likely to follow the route of attaching the municipality’s assets should I win the case and they fail to comply with the award,” Sithodolo said.

More claims

The municipality also faces a R10.9 million claim from the electrical engineering company, Mphaphuli Consulting, for work done in 2017.

The company was appointed in 2013 to launch a pilot project called Operation Mabone to electrify villages.

The company’s chief executive officer, Lufuno Mphaphuli, also attached the municipality’s assets in 2017 when the municipality declined to pay him R41 million for work his company had done.

History of mismanagement

Fetakgomo Tubatse is one of Limpopo’s municipalities that lost money invested in the controversial VBS bank.

The municipality invested R230 million.

City Press has documents that indicate the municipality also lost more than R200 million in unauthorised and wasteful or fruitless expenditure.

These costs were incurred in violation of procurement processes, committing the municipality to projects for which it did not have money, collusive bidding and unfair disqualification of bidders.

However, Mokwena said: “The municipality is under an external auditing process and no report [has been] issued as the process is under way.”

ANC intervenes

Sekhukhune ANC chairperson and district mayor Stan Ramaila said the party in the region was concerned by the state of affairs at the municipality.

Ramaila said the party was speaking to Basikopo Makamu, Limpopo’s cooperative governance MEC, to second officials to assist the municipality.

The six-month term of the administrator, Maureen Ntshudisane, had expired.

“The municipality is in a crisis. The MEC is being engaged to come up with a plan to second officials and as a district we will offer assistance.”

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February 23 2020