A squabble about a dodgy office lease and the freezing of a chief executive’s salary is frustrating the good intentions of a trade agreement among municipalities in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland.
The Umsebe Accord, signed between the City of Mbombela, the Nkomazi Local Municipality in Malalane, Matola City (Mozambique) and Mbabane City Council (Swaziland) in 2012, seemed to be on track until chief executive Mandisa Mkhonto was hired in November 2016.
Its aim was to foster a working relationship between the four municipalities on trade, investment and tourism.
Mkhonto has allegedly not been paid her salary for eight months this year after she refused to occupy an office in Mbombela because city officials did not follow supply chain management processes when the office was procured.
According to two sources within the city, Mkhonto declined to occupy the R22 000 per month office at Orchards Centre in Mbombela because there was no written agreement for the lease. She then got a cheaper office for R6 000 after advice from Umsebe board members.
She was told that an office was procured for her and she should meet the interior designer, but when she asked for a lease agreement and could not get it, she decided against occupying the office
a source said
Mkhonto was then made redundant, according to a second source, and has not been given assistance to implement her five-year plan based on the protocol that the four municipalities signed.
She has also been told to refund the R257 000 the city paid for the office she refused to occupy.
The sources’ versions are corroborated by Umsebe board minutes and correspondence City Press has seen.
City of Mbombela spokesperson Joseph Ngala failed to respond to written questions on the matter.
The accord’s seed funding was supposed to be provided by the municipalities – it would raise its own funds after that.
According to a document City Press has seen, Mbombela committed R2 million, Nkomazi R1 million, Matola R700 000 and Mbabane R400 000. Only Mbabane has paid its contribution, while the rest have allegedly not.
This, according to a report Mkhonto wrote to her lawyers, was a way to frustrate her job. In the report, she mentions that the Mbombela oversight committee visited her at the temporary offices and questioned why she did not occupy the Orchards office.
Mkhonto adds that she received communication from the municipality to pay the owner of Orchards R257 000, but when she reported the matter to the board on October 6, it did not want to listen to her.
She declined to comment when approached this week.