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eThekwini facing court action over city manager post, Max Mbili challenges his non-appointment

Max Mbili, who was shortlisted for the city manager position, has gone to court to challenge why he was not appointed.

Durban City Hall. File Picture

Published May 18, 2022

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DURBAN - MAX Mbili, who was shortlisted for the city manager position, has gone to court to challenge why he was not appointed.

Mbili, who is currently the municipal manager for the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality on the South Coast, has filed an application in the Durban High Court. The matter has been set down for August 3. In his application, he wants the court to declare that the municipality’s reasons for failing to appoint him as the new city manager are irrational, unjustifiable and unreasonable.

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He also wants the court to order that the issue of his non-appointment be referred back to the eThekwini council for reconsideration.

Mbili was the front-runner to be appointed as the new city manager for eThekwini, but his appointment was derailed just days before it was to be confirmed by council when allegations were made that the ANC in the region had interfered with the process and demanded that he be appointed.

During subsequent exco and full council meetings, when the interview panel, led by the mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, revealed that Mbili was indeed the candidate to be appointed to the position, opposition parties baulked at the prospect and blocked the appointment.

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They said the process was tainted by the allegations of political interference and should therefore be started afresh.

In his affidavit to support his application, Mbili states that he has turned to court for intervention after being informed by the municipality of the council’s decision.

Mbili spells out in detail the process he went through to find out why he was not appointed.

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“On April 14, 2022, my current attorneys of record wrote a letter to the (municipality), requesting information on why I was not appointed,” said the documents.

He said on April 22, he received a response from the municipality which provided the minutes of the short-listing panel committee meeting which had taken place on February 2, 2022. He said that according to the information he received, the municipality had tabled a report with the recommendations which showed that he was recommended as he had attained a score of 97.44 during the interview process.

He said that on April 22 he received a letter explaining why the recommendation by the panel for his appointment to be made was rejected.

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The letter, attached to his court papers, from the office of the Speaker Thabani Nyawose, states that the appointment had been rejected by council as the process had been “couched in mistrust”.

It further states that “it was alleged that the recommended candidate had been known in the media for some time which means there was a predetermined outcome”.

In response to this, Mbili said in his affidavit that there was no proper justification for labelling the process as being couched in mistrust as a legitimate process had been followed.

He added that he had no control of what was written in the media.

To demonstrate the credibility of the process, Mbili said he had also written and passed a competency test that was conducted by an independent service provider appointed by the municipality.

“In addition, there was no requirement that the applicant should not have been mentioned in the media.”

He goes on to point out why he is suitably qualified for the position stating that since he had taken over at the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, it had consistently achieved unqualified and clean outcomes.

He said he had eight years of experience as a municipal manager, a master’s degree in Public Administration, a postgraduate diploma in Leadership and Management and an honours degree in Education.

“I hate corruption with a passion and have not tolerated fruitless and wasteful expenditure at Ray Nkonyeni.

“I pause to mention that, whilst at the helm of the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality it was appointed the best-run municipality in KwaZulu-Natal and I was crowned as the best municipal manager in KwaZulu-Natal.

“My passion for good governance may have made me unpopular with certain people, however that will not prevent me from doing my job to the best of my ability.”

Mbili added that there was no legitimate reason not to appoint him as manager and that the reasons supplied for his non-appointment would not pass constitutional scrutiny.

EThekwini Municipality’s spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said they were aware of the legal action.

“Any candidate is well within their rights to go to court if they feel any of their rights were violated. As far as eThekwini Municipality is concerned, the issue of the appointment of the new city manager is well on track and all recruitment processes are being followed.

“The council will communicate its next course of action in due time. We are appealing that we be given space to finalise this process.”

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