Finance minister Tito Mboweni has appointed ex-Nelson Mandela Bay city manager Johann Mettler as administrator of the Lekwa local municipality.
Cabinet last month resolved to dissolve the failing municipality’s council in Standerton and placed it under administration.
Mettler will take over mayor Linda Dhlamini’s executive powers and serve as the new boss of Mpumalanga’s worst-run municipality.
Lekwa has been faced with shocking financial mismanagement, resulting in a continuous failure to deliver services to people.
The collapse of the municipality has been due to a political impasse between ANC regional chairman Muzi Chirwa and Dhlamini starting from the time when SANCO in the province and the ANC locked horns over leadership preferences.
Chiwa’s REC recalled Dhlamini in March 2018 but Dhlamini refused to leave, charging that those who were removing him from the council didn’t have the support of the people on the ground.
Dhlamini is aligned to key Chirwa opponents, like Ermelo based PEC member Sibusiso ‘The Great’ Sgudla and safety & security MEC Vusi Shongwe who support Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane to take power as Mpumalanga’s first woman ANC provincial chairperson.
Chirwa is being pumped to go lead Mpumalanga as provincial secretary on an opposing slate that supports acting chairman Mandla Ndlovu as the chair.
And since then Dhlamini has been holding onto the position, refusing to leave, which led to ANC councillors voting with DA to remove him.
But that collusive move between ANC councillors and opposition councillors has now been recalled, with threats to suspend those who colluded with DA to get rid of Dhlamini.
Political disagreements in Lekwa have caused the municipality’s Eskom debt to spiral to R1.1 billion, water supply woes, sewer spillages into people’s homes, allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement; ultimately giving Lekwa the status of Mpumalanga’s worst-run municipality.
Dhlamini had mobilised some quarters of the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) in the area to disrupt council sittings aimed at removing him as a mayor. He leads Mpumalanga SANCO as provincial deputy secretary.
DA councillor James Masango has described the situation as similar to a “hostage”, with the municipality being “turned upside down by gangsters” and services to people “virtually non-existent”.
The Auditor-General more than a year ago found that the municipality’s vacancy rate for senior managers is 67% and all managers are put there by Dhlamini in acting capacities.
Therefore Mboweni has given Mettler the powers to shake up the municipality, to take Dhlamini’s statutory executive obligations, take over all financial management and to fire the acting senior managers.
He will also have powers to institute disciplinary hearings and open criminal cases against anybody found in the wrong in investigations reports while putting into place the municipal financial recovery plan.
(edited by ZK)
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