Makhanya blames Myeni’s ‘ulterior motives’ for suspension

Durban - While South African Airways board chairwoman Dudu Myeni was being grilled in Parliament about the national airline on Tuesday, arguments were being heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court regarding her conduct as chairwoman of the Mhlathuze Water Board.

The case, which came before Judge Yvonne Mbatha, was brought by suspended Mhlathuze Water chief executive officer Sibusiso Makhanya against the Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Myeni and the other members of the Mhlathuze Water Board.

Makhanya is challenging his suspension on the grounds that the board that resolved to suspend him had not been lawfully constituted alternatively that his suspension was irregularly carried out and was due to the ulterior motives of Myeni.

Makhanya was suspended last November after the Water Board said a forensic audit investigation made preliminary findings regarding several allegations made against him including tender irregularities.

But Makhanya has denied any wrongdoing and alleges in his court papers that Myeni had wanted to get rid of him before the amalgamation of the Mhlathuze and Umgeni Water Boards.

He claims that Myeni told him that he was being investigated because he not following her instructions and taking decisions that suited her.

But Myeni has said in her court papers that there were serious allegations against Makhanya, including allegations of tender irregularities.

Regarding the term of office of the board, Advocate Griffiths Madonsela SC, acting for Makhanya, said last February, Mokonyane had unlawfully extended the board's term.

Madonsela said the Water Services Act states that the board can serve a term, not exceeding four years, and that any provisions that allowed the Minister to extend time periods did not refer to the Board's term.

He added that the decision taken to suspend Makhanya was done by Myeni acting alone, because of her ulterior motives to get rid of him, and that there were irregularities in how the suspension was carried out.

But Advocate Vinay Gajoo SC, acting for Myeni and the other members of the board, argued that the attack on Myeni was unfounded.

He said Myeni and the other board members had brought an application to “strike out” Makhanya’s allegations about Myeni from the court papers because they were “vexatious and scandalous”.

Gajoo added that the court should not pay attention to the attempt to “besmirch and defame” the conduct of Myeni.

He said the extension of the board's term of office was lawful and due to the proposed amalgamation of the boards.

He added that Makhanya's challenge regarding the board was surprising and his motives must be questioned as he had written a letter last year in which he supported the board's term of office being extended.

Gajoo said that the case had nothing to do with Myeni.

“The allegations made against Myeni were only introduced to colour the mind of the court against the second respondent(Myeni) and while there has been some notoriety attached to her in the media, that has nothing to do with this case.”

He said Myeni's actions were lawful and taken as a result of independent investigations into serious allegations of misconduct made against Makhanya with consultation with other members of the board.

Judgment was reserved.