In the Grocott’s Mail of 18 March 2022, Makana Municipality Speaker Councillor Mthuthuzeli Matyumza is quoted as giving reasons for the auditor-general’s third consecutive disclaimer of Makana Municipality financial accounts. In a single source interview with your reporter, Councillor Matyumza suggests that the disclaimer was caused by the “accounting officer fighting with the previous mayor”.
For the sake of the institution’s (and thus the community’s) future, this misleading version cannot be left unchallenged.
Councillor Matyumza was present when in May 2021, the chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) told the municipal manager that as the accounting officer, he was responsible for those two consecutive disclaimers.
Councillor Matyumza was present when the SCOPA chairperson asked the municipal manager whether he had the capacity to manage Makana Municipality. He was present when the SCOPA Chairperson told the Municipal Manager to “shape up or ship out”. Grocott’s Mail was also present in this session.
For Councillor Matyumza to now reduce the cause of three consecutive disclaimers to fighting between the previous Mayor and the accounting officer is being disingenuous.
First, it may be necessary to briefly explain the local government jargon for your readers. One of the laws governing the running of a local municipality is the Municipal Structures Act. For a municipality to work well, there need to be clear lines of authority. Council makes and approves policy. The Mayor provides political leadership and manages the implementation of those policies. The municipal manager is accountable to the Mayor and the council for implementing those policies. As the head of administration, the municipal manager’s job is to ensure that council resolutions are implemented.
On numerous occasions, the municipal manager failed to implement council resolutions. The Mayor’s job is to oversee the municipal manager and senior managers and see that they diligently and appropriately carry out their duties. The Mayor can only report misconduct and dereliction of duty by the municipal manager to the council. The council hires and fires a municipal manager, NOT the Mayor. For a mayor to succeed to have a municipal manager disciplined, a mayor needs the support of the troika in the main and that of the majority of the council.
The cold working relations between myself and the municipal manager resulted from my holding the municipal manager accountable. Here are the instances where I demanded accountability from the municipal manager.
In April 2019, the Makana Municipality failed to respond in the interdict against Eskom’s threat to disrupt electricity supply to the municipality. The municipality failed to file its answering papers with the court by 26 March 2019 as required. In addition, lawyers representing the municipality did not turn up in court on 28 March 2019. Consequently, the judge ordered Makana Municipality to pay the legal costs of multiple attorneys and four counsel.
I will not embarrass the municipal manager by exposing the email I wrote to him for this costly dereliction of duty and his unprofessional response to my email. The cold working relations between myself and the Municipal Manager emanated from this email.
An immature, unproductive defensiveness characterised his interaction with me until the end of my term. They included a resignation letter, later retracted, and another rumoured resignation whose letter never reached my desk.
I have on record numerous instances in which the municipal manager performed in an unsatisfactory manner. Likewise, I have a record of multiple attempts to bring cases of the municipal manager’s alleged misconduct to the council.
In at least two instances, my attempt to report alleged misconduct by the municipal manager never reached the council. Councillor Matyumza ought to be aware of both instances.
Councillor Matyumza ought to recall that on 3 May 2019, the Speaker of Council, concerned about the non-implementation of council resolutions, convened a Mayoral Committee meeting with senior managers.
Included in the long list of issues she was not happy about included but was not limited to the following:
• Non-implementation of council resolutions;
• Misuse of municipal vehicles by municipal employees;
• Unacceptable conduct of municipal employees;
• No disciplining of misconduct by managers.
Both the municipal manager and the chief financial officer acknowledged that the municipality was indeed in crisis and promised to fix things. A year later, not much had improved – instead, the municipality had regressed. On 6 September 2019, the chief whip of the ANC convened a caucus of the ANC in which ANC councillors expressed their frustration at the lack of progress on the issues raised by the speaker in May.
All of these weaknesses lie squarely at the doorstep of the accounting officer.
The elephant in the room is whether or not the accounting officer has the capacity, as was asked by the SCOPA chairperson in May 2021.
I rest my case.
Former Mayor of Makana Municipality