More Piet Retief municipality shenanigans come to the fore after community protests

More shocking allegations are coming out of Mkhondo local municipality. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL

More shocking allegations are coming out of Mkhondo local municipality. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL

Published Jul 13, 2022


Durban - Two weeks after Mkhondo (Piet Retief) local municipality hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons and residents protested, more shocking allegations are now coming out.

It has since emerged that the current acting municipal manager, Bheki Maseko, was once charged by the same struggling local council in the province of Mpumalanga and located along the South Africa-eSwatini border.

Maseko was charged in February this year after allegedly being found to have made payments to contractors who had rendered shoddy work to the municipality.

The bid to charge him for that while he was the chief financial officer (CFO) was led by the now embattled mayor, Mthokozisi Simelane, who has been accused of abusing municipal funds – a charge he denies.

Simelane’s bid to clean the municipality started shortly after he assumed office in November last year.

According to a batch of letters, memos and exchanges between Simelane, Maseko and other council members, the mayor wanted to know the true state of the municipality.

In that regard, he wrote to Maseko asking him to compile a full list of who is being paid and why Eskom, which is now owed over R300 million by the municipality, was not paid, as most local consumers had prepaid meters, meaning they pay in advance for their power.

The exchanges showed Maseko ignored that request from Simelane. Angered by that, Simelane wanted to institute a disciplinary hearing against Maseko and notified him in writing.

“The suspension is due to your failure to comply to my lawful instruction as an Executive  Mayor of Mkhondo Local Municipality. On the 25 November 2021 at 10am you were instructed to prepare a status quo report of the financial standing of the municipality.

“I requested you to provide information about contracts, the amount paid per contract and balance thereto. I requested you to provide reasons why the payments of contractors were not given same treatment. I requested you to provide information on the non-payment of Eskom account, and reasons why the account has been escalated under your leadership as a CFO, because most Mkhondo households are paying electricity on prepaid.

I requested you to provide reasons for the payments which were later declared by the Auditor-General as wasteful, fruitless and unauthorized expenditure on the R260 million. I further reminded you in writing on 29 November 2021 that the above-mentioned information is needed on 1 December 2021, but you decided not to comply to my lawful instruction as an Executive  Mayor. (Copy of a letter attached). Therefore the above-mentioned reasons have led me to conclude that you must be suspended with immediate effect,” reads the letter from Simelane to Maseko.

Later he slapped him with five charges which include flouting supply chain management rules, irregular appointments of contractors and hiring staff without following due processes.

When that happened, Maseko wrote a letter on February 11, 2022, saying he was resigning because of “instability” in the municipality. In that letter, he said he was willing to leave with immediate effect provided the municipality pays him two months' salary.

After days of silence, Simelane wrote back to Maseko and gave the nod for him to leave and had his two month's salary request acceded to.

“As per our discussion we want to accept you’re proposed for two months (sic), as a full, final settlement offer, withdraw your charges, termination of your contract with Mkhondo local municipality,” Simelane wrote to Maseko.

Then two months after leaving the municipality, Maseko came back to act as the municipal manager of the same municipality where he was at loggerheads.

Maseko confirmed that he resigned and cited a toxic environment. He said he came back when councillors asked him to do so and after he made demands on how the toxic environment could be improved and the workplace made suitable for all to deliver accordingly.

“So, it was after these deliberations and commitments from the mayor himself to say (the) situation would have improved. And it is under that undertaking to say please come back Mr Maseko to your position as a CFO and then if you so agree we will then meet your requirements of having everything in black and white, which in this case is a council resolution,” he said.

He said it was for that reason there were no interviews for him. From there, Maseko ended up being given the municipal manager position - albeit on an acting basis.

He added that when the council met to discuss his resignation letter, they said they were not aware of the toxic environment and somehow it was set aside, hence he was called back.

This story has been updated.

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