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Mangaung mayor, council on collision course over forceful removal of ex-city manager

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MOMENT OF SHAME . . . Mangaung council speaker Stefani Lockman-Naidoo says the treatment of former city manager is regrettable

The move by Mangaung executive mayor Mxolisi Sionzana to forcefully remove former acting city manager Mzingisi Nkungwana from office may come under scrutiny when council meets next week.

Mangaung speaker Stefani Lockman-Naidoo told The Free Stater that she had planned to put the matter on the agenda for the council sitting on April 28, but with the appointment of an interim management team this week, she may need guidance on how to proceed.

“We will have to take guidance from the intervention team on that. At this stage we don’t have any information about what will happen,” said Lockman-Naidoo in a brief interview.

“Remember this matter is still in court. The mayor took it to court. The court outcome will make it a bit more clearer,” she added.

“There are conflicting views on whether council was right to appoint him beyond his contract or not.”

The speaker wrote to Siyonzana on April 18, 2022 stating that Nkungwana had lodged a complaint with her about the harassment he was allegedly suffering at the hands of the mayor who wanted him to vacate the office of the acting city manager before the end of his contract.

In the letter, Lockman-Naidoo indicated that she would be taking the matter to council as she felt the mayor had acted out of line.

“. . . it is evident that you have adopted a view that the resolution adopted on 22 February 2022, and in which you participated, extended Mr Nkungwana’s fixed term contract with the municipality which contract lapsed automatically on 31 March 2022,” she told the mayor.

“You are most aware of the role of council and the status of the resolutions it takes.

“You are further aware of the internal processes that any councilor is entitled to take in the event that the said councilor is not satisfied with a particular resolution.

“These processes and proceedings are codified in the standing rules.

“As you know, a council resolution remains valid and binding until it is set aside by court.

“This position includes and covers the resolution under discussion.”

Nkungwana complained to the speaker that the mayor called security officers to forcefully remove him from his office and issued letters to him and his lawyers that he should not come to work.

And on April 14, 2022, the mayor purported to dismiss him by demanding that he returns all the equipment he has in his possession that belongs to the municipality.

“It is apparent, with regret, that you appear to have disregarded the council and its processes when you approached the court without first raising your concerns/issues with the same council that ought to have been approached in accordance with its internal rules and legislative provisions,” continued the speaker in the letter.

Lockman-Naidoo said the council meeting would certainly go ahead as planned by the items on the agenda may need to be finalised.

“Yes, it is a scheduled council meeting and it should go ahead as planned,” she told The Free Stater.

“If it (the matter) becomes part of the agenda, it will be discussed.

“Remember, I had committed in the letter that I will bring it to council . . . so I have to honour that commitment because it’s only the council that can decide the fate of a city manager.

“The council appointed the acting city manager, remember. So, they are the body that must decide the fate of any acting (or substantive) senior manager for that matter.”

Nkungwana was physically ejected from office by the head of the yet-to-be-established Mangaung Metro Police, Israel Kgamanyane, and his team this week on the instruction of Siyonzana who claimed Nkungwana ceased to be a municipal employee at the expiry of his contract as the head of social services on March 31, 2022 and could therefore not continue as acting city manager.

The mayor argued in letters he sent to Nkungwana and court papers that his appointment as acting city manager was an illegal extension of his contract.

This was sharply disputed by Nkungwana – who was appointed acting city manager by council on February 22, 2022 on a three-month contract set to end in May – saying his latest appointment could only be revoked by council and not the mayor acting alone.

In a two-sentence letter dated April 14, 2022 and addressed to Kgamanyane, Siyonzana wrote: “You are requested to assist Mr Mzingisi Nkungwana to comply with the contents of the letter written to him on the 14th of April 2022. We hope you will deliver the request with honour.”

Nkungwana is however now out of the municipality after an interim management team took over the running of the municipality starting this Thursday.

The administration team, which was announced by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday, will be led by Tebogo Motlashuping as the acting city manager. – Staff Reporter

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Centlec warns cable theft masterminds

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STOLEN . . . Part of the copper cable recovered by the police

Power distribution company Centlec has issued a stern warning to people believed to be hired by unknown individuals or syndicates to steal copper cables from the power lines saying it will not allow them to destroy such key infrastructure and put the country’s economy at risk.

“This is war and we will fight it tooth and nail,” said Centlec in a statement.

“We want to send a strong message to the criminals and their handlers that we will not rest until they are behind bars,” added the company, which distributes electricity to Mangaung and surrounding municipalities.

It said it is aware that most of the criminals are just fronts who are sent by kingpins who then process the copper before selling it.

Centlec warned the kingpins that they would soon face the full might of the law.

“Some of the fronts happen to be vulnerable foreign nationals who are being used to steal our cables by their handlers,” said the company.

A joint operation by Centlec and the police in recent weeks has led to several arrests and the recovery of hundreds of kilogrammes of copper cable destined for scrapyards.

In the latest three incidents, a man was arrested in Botshabelo after being found in possession of copper cable believed to have been stolen.

Several people were also arrested following inspections at two scrapyards in Botshabelo where large amounts of copper were found.

At a scrapyard in Bloemfontein, a man was issued with a fine after he was found with copper weighing 150kg which he failed to account for.

Investigations are still underway to ascertain the real owner of the scrapyard for possible arrest.

“We are worried that many of these scrapyards are becoming a haven for criminals and promoting criminality,” said Centlec chief executive officer Malefane Sekoboto. – Staff Reporter

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Jilted lover up for double murder

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A 30-year-old man will appear in the Viljoenskroon Magistrates Court this Wednesday facing two charges of murder.

Fezile Dabi district police spokesperson Captain Malebo Khosana said the man was arrested for the double murder after he went to his ex-girlfriend’s house at about 4am on Saturday.

“He suspected that the ex-girlfriend was sleeping with the current boyfriend,” said Malebo in a statement.

“Upon . . . arrival at the ex-girlfriend’s home, he stabbed her to death and hit her son with a hammer on the head,” added the police spokesperson.

The suspect then fled the scene.

He is said to have told the police that thought the little boy was the woman’s current boyfriend.

Paramedics were called to the scene and declared both the 34-year-old mother and her 14-year-old son dead on the scene.

The suspect was later arrested after police were tipped of his whereabouts by community members.

The actual motive for the attack is still being investigated. – Staff Reporter

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Killer of businessman Helepi jailed for life

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SLAIN BUSINESSMAN . . . Tavern owner and former footballer Lejoni Alfred Helepi was attacked and fatally shot after taking a shower in his house in Phahameng, Bloemfontein

The man accused of killing Bloemfontein businessman and former Moroka Swallows FC player Lejoni Alfred Helepi in March 2016 has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Free State High Court after being extradited from Lesotho.

Ntsane Togowe, 42, was given an additional 15 years by Judge Pitso Molitsoane on Monday after he was convicted of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Helepi was killed in his bathroom on March 29, 2016 in the robbery which included four other accused persons.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the slain businessman was attacked and fatally shot after taking a shower in his house in Phahameng, Bloemfontein, where he operated a tavern.

The accused took about R40 000 and fled the scene using Helepi’s vehicle.

The vehicle was later found abandoned in Phelindaba.

The high-profile case suffered a major setback in November 2016 when the Bloemfontein Regional Court struck it off the roll after the state failed to secure a trial date at the High Court and finalise investigations “within a reasonable period”.

Togowe and his co-accused, namely Baninzi Gxama Dira Moreenyane, Ntabiseng Clementinah Lempe and Maseboko Alice Majake, had spent about nine months in custody.

Their lawyer, Saintin Seitheisho, successfully argued against further remand saying the state had been given adequate time to finalise their investigations and set a trial date.

The matter was stood down for several hours to allow the state to come back with information on when the case could proceed, but it failed to do so, leaving the presiding officer with no choice but to strike the matter off the court roll and proceed by way of summons.

That decision inadvertently allowed some of the accused to disappear and the police could not find them when the case was supposed resume.

“Togowe handed himself over to the police in 2018, after widespread reports that he was wanted for the murder of Helepi and he was released on bail,” said NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping.

Togowe, who is believed to have pulled the trigger on the fateful day, eventually stood trial alone after he was granted bail.

But in October 2018, he mysteriously disappeared from the High Court after the judge briefly adjourned the matter to allow him to deliver judgment in the afternoon.

A warrant was immediately issued for his arrest.

“He allegedly escaped to Lesotho without a passport as it was handed to the investigating officer as part of his bail conditions. He was arrested for robbery in Lesotho on July 27, 2019 and the Hawks, upon knowing his whereabouts, started the process of extraditing him to South Africa. This was successfully done on 8 December 2021,” said Shuping.

In aggravation, state prosecutor Lucky Bontes requested the court to impose harsh punishment on the accused because he failed to show any remorse as he denied being involved in the murder and robbery of the deceased even after his conviction.

“The deceased was killed in the comfort of his own home, after taking a shower and one of the witnesses had to cover his body with a blanket,” said Bontes.

“It was obvious that he was not carrying a weapon but they shot him twice and there was no reason to kill him because they could have just taken whatever they wanted . . .”

Gxama was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in June 2019.

The other three suspects, Moreenyane, Lempe and Majake are still at large.

Police made their first break-through in the matter just a day after the incident when Majake admitted to having planned the robbery with the other four.

Following the arrest of Majake and Lempe, the two women — both employed by Helepi at the time — then assisted the police to find the three men.

Togowe and Gxama are said to have stormed Helepi’s Tavern and demanded cash.

In a well-orchestrated move, the two are said to have held Majake and Lempe hostage in the tavern, yet they part of the robbery scheme.

They went on to demand keys to the safe.

At that point, the court heard, Togowe allegedly went to the bathroom in the house where Helepi was taking a shower and shot him in the upper body.

He collapsed and died on the spot.

The pair then took the cash, Helepi’s gun, three cellphones, house keys and several sets of car keys before fleeing the scene in a bakkie which belonged to the businessman.

They later abandoned it.

Free State Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Navilla Somaru has commended Lesotho police, the Hawks and the prosecutor for their commitment in ensuring that Togowe was brought to book for the murder of Helepi. – Staff Reporter

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