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A payment of R3.5 million was what Thabo Putini, the former municipal manager of the eDumbe municipality in Paulpietersburg, wanted to go back to work.
Putini took the matter to the Durban High Court demanding the payment, but this month Judge Kevin Swain, who also had some criticism of the municipality’s conduct, dismissed his application.
On Wednesday, Putini declined to comment and referred The Mercury to his attorney Bongani Mgaga, who said they would appeal against the judgment.
Putini said in his application that the small-town municipality, which has a budget of only R67m, had agreed to pay him the amount as compensation after he had been suspended in December 2010.
The municipality said Putini had been suspended after a KPMG audit found there had been “prima facie irregularities” regarding procurement, revenue management, promotions and salary increases.
The audit also found that he had been consistently absent from council meetings.
But Putini claimed he was suspended because of “untrue and defamatory allegations” made by some council staff.
He took the matter to the local government bargaining council and demanded that his suspension be lifted and he be compensated.
A new council elected in May 2011 thought Putini’s suspension was illegal because he had been suspended for more than 60 days and no disciplinary hearing had been held.
The council’s executive committee then took a decision to lift Putini’s suspension.
A housing clerk, Nathi Makhoba, was tasked by the acting municipal manager, a ‘Miss Mdlazi’, to conclude an agreement with Putini.
However, the agreement concluded stated that R3.5m would be paid to Putini by June 15, 2011.
In its argument, the municipality said it had never had any intention to pay a financial settlement to Putini and that he had abused Makhoba’s lack of knowledge.
Judge Swain concurred with the municipality’s assertion and said the executive council had never discussed any compensation.
“I find it grossly improbable that if the council had intended to financially compensate the applicant, it would not have placed a limit on the amount or stipulated that it would be subject to the approval of council.”
He criticised the municipality’s conduct in failing to outline the terms of the settlement agreement.
“If the respondent had taken the trouble to clearly define the settlement agreement, the present dispute would never have arisen.”
eDumbe mayor Bonginkosi Nxusa said Putini left the municipality in September last year.
“His contract was meant to have ended in December. But we negotiated with him and paid him three months’ salary.”