Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Covid-19 deaths nearly brings KZN municipality to its knees

By Sihle Mavuso, Thami Magubane Time of article published Jan 5, 2021

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Durban - The Covid-19 pandemic has nearly brought the struggling KZN Midlands municipality of Richmond to its knees after claiming the lives of its three senior and longest-serving managers within a space of just two weeks.

The string of deaths started on December 17 when the manager for community services, Big Boy Mhlongo, 53, contracted Covid-19 and later died.

On December 23, another senior manager (human resources division), Tyran Ramnath, 38, contracted the disease together with the acting chief financial officer, Msizi Ngcobo.

Ramnath later died and Ngcobo survived. However, fears of more deaths continued to grip staff of the municipality.

A major loss to the municipality came last week, on December 31, when the acting municipal manager, Sikhombisi Mthembu, died of Covid-19 at the age of 60.

According to insiders, Mthembu, a man who rose through the ranks of the municipality, was earmarked to be appointed on the position of municipal manager on a permanent basis.

“That one was supposed to come back from the hospital and sign a letter of appointment as a full-time municipal manager. His death was shocking,” said a staff member.

When Mthembu died, the municipality issued a statement lamenting his loss. “Mthembu has provided the municipality with excellent leadership of 12 years as a strategic manager (for) corporate (services) and was serving as an acting municipal manager. He was passionate about the Richmond area and its potential and very proud of its administration,” the municipality said last week.

The MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs in KZN, Sipho Hlomuka, also mourned Mthembu’s death, saying it came at a time when they were engaged in a battle to improve service delivery.

“The loss of yet another footsoldier in the battle to improve the lives of our people through the tangible delivery of services comes as a big blow to us, as the sphere of local government in the province and the community of Richmond. Mthembu had been a loyal servant of the people Richmond and used his extensive experience in local government to serve his community,” Hlomuka said.

Richmond municipality mayor Samora Ndlovu said they had lost “the cream of the crop” in these managers as they were a big part of the stability in the governance of the municipality.

When Ndlovu came to power late last year following the death of former mayor Sibusiso Mchunu, he started a campaign to fill all critical vacancies and said he wanted to stabilise the municipality after years of political and administrative turbulence.

“We have stability in large part because of these managers; one manager had been there since 2009 and another had been there since 2000. So these are seasoned individuals in the municipality,” he said.

He added while these deaths would not impact on service delivery as there was a plan in place that would be carried, the deaths had unsettled some of the workers.

“We do not want the community to be fearful, as Richmond we have experienced and endured many challenges and this too we will overcome.”

DA councillor Goodman Madonda said the situation at the municipality was concerning.

“We are now at a loss, we have no idea what we must do (to prevent Covid-19 infections),” he said. “The workers in the municipality are working under difficult conditions and the important thing is to make sure we do not lose any other worker to this disease.”

Political Bureau

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