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



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


Ngwathe pays Eskom to fix damaged line



BLACKOUT . . . The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading

Ngwathe Local Municipality in the northern Free State has paid R1.1-million to Eskom so it can repair damages to the power line in the area caused by overloading.

Eskom provincial spokesperson Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg said in a statement the payment was made on Monday morning and work to restore supplies to Parys and Vredefort has started.

“Repairs to the Eskom equipment will now commence,” said Van Rensburg.

“Based on the assessments of the damage, supply to Ngwathe should be restored by midnight tonight,” she added.

The spokesperson however said the initial repairs were focusing on the hot connections and will only be temporary to assist communities.

Another outage will be scheduled to repair the transformer bushings that were also damaged during the overloading incident.

The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading.

“Since 2018, Eskom has warned Ngwathe that their continued exceedance of their Notified Maximum Demand (NMD) – the contracted amount of electricity supplied by Eskom to the Municipality – will eventually result in damage to the Eskom network and that the municipality needs to apply for an upgrade in their NMD.

“In August 2021 and in April 2022, Eskom informed the municipality that any damage to the Eskom network that is caused by the municipality’s negligence, will be at the municipality’s cost.

“The municipality agreed to this condition and, although they were well informed and aware of the risks, they did not take the necessary precautions or made sufficient efforts to upgrade their NMD,” Van Rensburg explained.

Following the incident, Eskom insisted on the municipality making an upfront payment as it is one of the municipalities in the province sitting with a huge debt to the national power utility.

As at end June, Ngwathe’s overdue debt to Eskom totalled R1.89 billion.

Eskom says this debt continues to grow as current accounts are not paid in full.

“Ngwathe’s non-adherence to payment conditions and negligence in protecting the power system, jeopardises Eskom’s financial sustainability as well as the security of supply to the residents of towns such as Parys and Vredefort.

“Supply to Ngwathe will be restored to the capacity as per the contracted NMD.

“Risks of overloading and consequent damage remain, and it is imperative that the municipality invests in upgrading its supply,” according to the power company. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung electricity tariffs up



POWER TARIFFS UP . . . Local power distributor Centlec has hiked electricity charges

Electricity tariffs in Mangaung have gone up by 7.47 percent.

In a statement released on Thursday night, local power distributor Centlec said the increase was due to come into effect at midnight on July 1 following approval by the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa.

The increase will cover the period July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

“A guideline increase of 7.47 percent on electricity tariffs for Centlec was therefore approved with effect from the 1st of July 2022 for the 2022/23 financial year,” read part of the brief statement.

It said a more detailed outline of the increases will be announced soon. – Staff Reporter

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CUT students arrested for protesting against exams



DISTURBANCE AT CAMPUS . . . Five students protesting against exams at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein have been arrested

Police have arrested five students from the Central University of Technology (CUT) for public violence after they embarked on an unsanctioned protest against the institution’s decision to have the mid-year exams conducted in person at its two campuses in Bloemfontein and Welkom starting this Thursday.

The exams are set to run until July 20.

The fracas follows an announcement by CUT acting vice-chancellor and principal Professor Alfred Ngowi on Wednesday in which he stated the exams would take place physically at the two campuses as scheduled.

Ngowi said a detailed discussion about online exams at the Welkom campus concluded that it would not be feasible to conduct online exams because circumstances have changed regarding the COVID-19 restrictions and that it was also against the policy of the university.

“CUT is a full-contact institution and not a distance learning institution and therefore does not have the authority to accredit examinations that are not done under CUT’s status as a full-contact institution,” said Ngowin in a recorded video.

Ngowi told the students that academic assessment is one of the important building blocks of their qualifications.

He warned the students against disrupting the exams saying they would face disciplinary action as such action will be illegal.

“The unreliability of the power supply may have unintended disruptive effects,” he said.

“The COVID-19 restrictions which necessitated virtual classes and virtual assessments have all been suspended and the various accrediting bodies to which CUT is affiliated may not accredit online assessments.

“Therefore, we will proceed with physical assessments.

“Management has made all necessary preparations for the smooth running of the mid-year assessments, which have been communicated to all students.

“Therefore, any student who plans to disrupt the physical examinations on our campuses must be aware of the legal and disciplinary consequences.

“In addition, the CUT management has put several measures in place to protect the constitutional rights of all our students who are prepared for and prefer to sit for physical assessments.

“Students must be aware that any disruptions of the planned and scheduled assessments are illegal and unlawful, and students who act outside the law will have to face the consequences of their actions.

“Students further need to note that failing the upcoming academic assessments will directly impact their NSFAS funding status.

“No further funding will be available to NSFAS-funded students who fail the assessments or fail to take the upcoming assessments.”

But, in a statement, members of the South African Student Congress (SASCO) at the university argued that since all assessments had taken place online due to the COVID-19 restrictions, “it is only normal that the exams take place online as well”.

SASCO also argued that some students had not received their allowances from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and it would therefore be impossible for them to write their exams in a physical setting.

But Ngowi addressed the matter earlier in the same video: “As previously communicated through the Student Representative Council, NSFAS-funded students who still have unresolved challenges with their accommodation are encouraged to make written submissions to the relevant faculty deans in that regard.”

Park Road police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said members of Public Order Police Unit arrested five male students for public violence at the CUT’s Bloemfontein campus on Thursday morning.

He said the group of protesting students was warned by the operational commander to disperse within a given time as they were contravening the conditions stipulated in an issued court order but refused to do so.

“The protesting students became violent and started throwing stones and bottles at the police and the security officers,” said Covane.

“The police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The other group ran into King Edward Street and blocked traffic by placing stones on the road.

“Police then arrested the five students with ages ranging from 18 to 22 years.”

The arrested students are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Monday facing charges of public violence and contravening a court order. – Staff Reporter

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