'Fired' officials pitch up for work

Image: The Herald

The three Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality executive directors and chief operations officer Mzwakhe Clay have defied acting city manager Nobuntu Mpongwana’s decision to fire them – with all four arriving at work on Tuesday.

Anele Qaba (economic development), Walter Shaidi (infrastructure and engineering) and Noxolo Nqwazi (sports, recreation, arts and culture), along with Clay, reported for duty early in the morning.

Mpongwana could not be reached for comment.

The officials have also roped in attorneys Kaplan Blumberg to assist them in fighting Mpongwana’s dismissal letters, according to Qaba.

“We still reiterate the fact that Nobuntu is in that office illegally and any decision from her is illegal and unlawful,” Qaba said.

“Her acting and that of the chief accountant [Karel Kramer] is undermining the municipality’s management.

Four days after mayor Mongameli Bobani appointed the deputy director of legal services Nobuntu Mpongwana to head up the municipality’s administration on Thursday, she placed mid-level accountant Karel Kramer in charge of the city’s finances.

The letter from acting city manager Nobuntu Mpongwana to chief accountant Karel Kramer, showing his appointment to act as the CFO.
The letter from acting city manager Nobuntu Mpongwana to chief accountant Karel Kramer, showing his appointment to act as the CFO.

On Wednesday, Qaba said these decisions could not go unchallenged.

“It is in fact an insult to [the municipality’s] intelligence.”

"Where have you ever heard of a metro run by an assistant director with a chief accountant in charge of budget and treasury?

“Now you have a deputy director firing executive directors. This a joke, absolute chaos and madness. It is a circus of note," he said.

“We have no choice but to stand up against this maladministration. This is a public institution that must be defended at all costs,” he said.

“Currently, I am not sure if I should even be in office. I am also considering waiting for the council meeting to rescue us from this hell, it is at this stage our only hope that will bring stability in our institution.

Economic development, tourism and agriculture acting executive director Anele Qaba's letter to acting city manager Nobuntu Mpongwana.
Economic development, tourism and agriculture acting executive director Anele Qaba's letter to acting city manager Nobuntu Mpongwana.

Meanwhile, Mpongwana’s decisions sent some coalition partners and the opposition scrambling to draw up a petition for speaker Buyelwa Mafaya to hold an urgent special council meeting for the mayor’s removal.The ANC, DA, COPE, ACDP, EFF, AIC and Patriotic Alliance all want Bobani to step down.

ANC regional task team co-ordinator Luyolo Nqakula said Bobani was a “madman”.

“Bobani is a mad madman. He’s a lunatic. He is a senseless man who has no reasonable sense,” Nqakula said.“As a coalition partner, we were not consulted – and there is no justification for what he’s done.

“He’s hell-bent on collapsing the city. His behaviour is highly treasonous.”He said the ANC would not rubber-stamp any of Bobani’s decisions in council.

“He must be held personally liable for all these decisions, including that of [appointing] [Mpongwana], because we do not recognise her appointment.

“Bobani must go as a matter of urgency. Some coalition partners are in the process of petitioning for a council meeting to be held [urgently],” Nqakula said.

DA caucus leader Athol Trollip said the appointment of Kramer as acting chief financial officer was indicative of Bobani’s desperation.

By law, a CFO is required to have senior management experience, which Kramer lacks.

As a senior accountant, he is meant to report to a deputy director, but he has been parachuted three tiers up – which means his bosses now report to him.

“This is becoming a pattern now,” Trollip said.

“Bobani is appointing people into the most senior positions of the municipality who are patently not qualified.“It is obviously so they can do his bidding.

“He is running the municipality as if it is his sole Pty Ltd.”

PA councillor Marlon Daniels said: “It is disturbing that there is someone in that critical position who is deranged – it is beyond any sober-minded person’s logic or reasoning if we have to decipher all the things that he is doing all by himself, without consulting coalition partners, and this is to the detriment of the residents of the metro.”

Daniels said he had handed over a petition for Bobani’s removal to the other coalition partners to sign.

“There is no other way that we can deal with the elephant in the room.“All parties need to get together and facilitate Bobani’s removal,” he said.

EFF regional chair Ngawethu Madaka said: “All these decisions are illegal and we don’t recognise them.“We will not ratify those decisions [in the council].

“Whoever has taken those decisions will have to account and will have to pay for any wasteful expenditure.”

Deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye, of the AIC, said: “Any decisions taken by the acting city manager [Mpongwana], I don’t recognise."

Buyeye said they had written to Bobani telling him that Mpongwana’s appointment was in conflict with the city’s policy on acting appointments.He said he did not recognise her decision to fire executive directors.

“I won’t comment on things that are done by someone who is appointed illegally.”

The municipality’s policy on acting appointments states: “Unless operational requirements dictate otherwise, acting appointments should be confined to employees reporting directly to the applicable acting position.”

Mpongwana, a deputy director, was also parachuted up three levels to the city manager’s office.

In letters sent to Clay, Qaba, Shaidi and Nqwazi on Monday, Mpongwana said she had received legal advice that their contracts had been extended illegally.

“Accordingly, and pursuant to the legal advice obtained by the municipality, you are hereby notified that your purported extended contract of employment will come to an end with effect by close of business on 7 October 2019,” she wrote.

On February 28, the council extended the contracts of Qaba, Shaidi and Clay on a month-to-month basis until the position is filled.

Clay said he was out of town and had not yet seen his letter, while Shaidi wrote to Mpongwana saying that he would continue working because the council had extended his contract on a month-to-month basis.

Infrastructure and engineering executive director Walter Shaidi responds to acting city manager Nobuntu Mpongwana’s decision to fire him.
Infrastructure and engineering executive director Walter Shaidi responds to acting city manager Nobuntu Mpongwana’s decision to fire him.

He said he had also signed an extension of his contract on September 18, given to him by Qaba, who was the acting city boss at the time.

“I would like to kindly request the acting city manager to withdraw her termination letter because I’m determined to continue rendering public goods and services to the NMBM communities in accordance with my contract of employment,” Shaidi wrote.

Qaba, in turn, in a strongly worded letter to Mpongwana – whom he addressed as deputy director of legal services – wrote: “Please be advised that I do not recognise you as the acting city manager on the basis that you were appointed disregarding the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality’s acting policy.

“You, as an officer of the law, shall at all material times uphold the law and policies and you have dismally failed to advise the institution and the mayor, which is a serious misconduct.”

He said in the letter the policy was clear that in the absence of a city manager, a senior manager must be appointed by the council to act.

“You know that your position is not of a city manager, hence you actually make decisions of this nature.”

He wrote that the extension of the executives’ contracts was supported by three legal opinions.“I also need to advise you further that the appointment and termination of Section 56 contracts is the competence of council.

“I would advise you to take your legal opinion to council in order for you to obtain a council resolution.“In summary, any instruction or decision coming from you is illegal and I am compelled to disregard any unlawful instruction from anyone,” Qaba wrote.

Nqwazi said Bobani had extended her contract until the end of November.

Bobani has executive powers to make such a decision without a council resolution.

However, the decision must be ratified later by the council.

Nqwazi said: “Whether or not there is a new legal opinion, it doesn’t take away that there is a valid legal expectation that my contract is in place until the end of November. Therefore, I am not going anywhere.