Nkandla municipality has no manager following high court ruling

21 February 2019 - 18:28 By matthew savides
Nomusa Dube-Ncube. File picture.
Nomusa Dube-Ncube. File picture.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

Former president Jacob Zuma’s home municipality is about to be manager-less following a high court ruling on Thursday.

The KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) department went to court to have Langelihle Siphiwokukle Jili removed as manager of the Nkandla municipality for not having the legally required experience.

The court also ordered that Philemon Philani Sibiya be removed as municipal manager of the Mthonjaneni municipality for the same reason.

The high court ruled in the department's favour.

However, in an apparent error - which was confirmed by KZN Cogta on Friday morning - the ruling swapped the names of the two managers around, naming Jili as Mthonjaneni boss and Sibiya as Nkandla manager.

Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube welcomed the court's decision.

According to the judgment, which dealt with both matters, the Nkandla council approved Jili's appointment on January 24 2017 – but almost immediately his lack of experience was questioned and demands made for his appointment to be nullified.

In a judgment handed down in the high court in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday, Judge Piet Koen noted that, according to the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, a senior municipal manager must have at least five years’ management experience. This is unless the Cogta minister allows for this requirement to be waived.

According to the court papers, Jili fell way short of this requirement. He had just 13 months’ experience.

Koen noted that within three weeks of the Nkandla council telling the KZN Cogta department of Jili's appointment, it had already begun to question what had happened.

A timeline presented showed that:

  • Jili was appointed on January 24 2017, and KZN Cogta told of the appointment on January 26;
  • KZN Cogta wrote to the Nkandla mayor on February 13 2017 requesting information and documentation relating to the appointment;
  • KZN Cogta wrote to the Nkandla mayor on March 7 2017 telling them the appointment was "not in compliance with the regulations as he lacked five years' experience at senior management level", and also that his "remuneration was above the permissible pay package";
  • On May 23 2017, the Nkandla municipality applied to national Cogta to waive the experience requirement because Jili met all other criteria for the post;
  • Nearly four month later, on September 14  2017, this application was denied> Eight of the 23 applicants for the post met the experience requirement;
  • On November 10 2017, KZN Cogta wrote to the Nkandla municipality and told them to take "remedial action";
  • On November 21 2017, the mayor wrote back saying they were waiting for a legal opinion on the matter; and
  • About six weeks later, on January 4 2018, KZN Cogta sent a letter requesting an update on the remedial action "but no response was received".

The provincial department then lodged their case to have Jili removed on May 11 2018.

"[Jili] had in the interim assumed and continued in office as municipal manager performing the functions of municipal manager," the judgment noted.

Nine months later, Koen ruled this week that Jili must vacate his office.

A similar version of events occurred in Sibiya's case, although he had even less experience – only four months, according to the court papers.

Despite ruling that both appointments were null and void, Koen said that it must be effective from the date of his judgment and not retrospectively. He said such a ruling could reverse many of the administrative decisions made by Sibiya and Jili - a situation which could "throw the administration…into disarray".

Dube-Ncube hailed the judgment as a victory for good and ethical governance in municipalities.

"This judgment once again assists us in our journey to ensure that those who serve at the coalface of service delivery are competent and capable people," she said in a statement.

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, TimesLIVE named Sibiya as municipal manager of Nkandla and Jili as municipal manager of Mthonjaneni based on the published high court judgment. However, it was later confirmed by the KZN cooperative governance department that Sibiya worked at Mthonjaneni and Jili at Nkandla. This has been corrected in the story.