By Sifiso Dlamini | 2019-01-12
Housing and Urban Development Minister Prince Simelane has suspended the embattled Matsapha Town Councillors pending a commission of enquiry he will announce soon.
The minister’s intervention comes after a series of events between councilors and Mayor Sandlane Zwane, whom they wanted out and the other involving the mayor and town clerk.
The circus came to its head on Tuesday when councillors wanted to move a vote of no confidence on the mayor which lasted way into midnight and councillors were forced to seek an alternative venue aust the Mayor, which they found at Sigodvweni Police Station.
Despite the so-called meeting having resolved to oust Mayor Zwane from his seat, he did not move an inch until he was served with minutes of the said meeting, which he considered to be a caucus than an official council meeting.
Addressing the councillors yesterday at the ministry in the presence of the media, Prince Simelane stated categorically that all meetings at Matsapha Town Council have been put on hold until after a report which will be delivered by a commission of enquiry, which he was yet to announce.
He said after having observed the challenges which were faced by the town he deemed it necessary to act by suspending all council activities and institute a commission of enquiry.
The minister stated that local authorities are autonomous bodies, which manage their own affairs without the interference of the central government unless such intervention is authorised by law.
In his press statement, the minister pointed out that it’s been almost two months since the governance challenges emerged in the local authority. He also noted that while the nation was celebrating one of its most significant ceremonies Incwala, the local authority leaders have been engaged in a squabble and he expressed his condemnation of the way the challenges have been handled.
Over this period, the ministry has been quietly following these challenges, hoping the council would amicably resolve them.
“However, recent developments currently taking place at the council have shown an amicable settlement at the local level is not forthcoming.
“Therefore, having had recourse to the complexity of the challenges that have engulfed the local authority, I have found it proper to institute a commission of enquiry into the affairs of the Matsapha Council, in terms of section 107 of the Urban Government Act of 1969,” said the minister.
In the intervening period as is the norm, council and all its committees’ normal business meetings, including Special Meetings, are put on hold until after the conclusion of the commission whereat further direction will be given, added the minister. The office of the CEO is, therefore, directed to ensure that the Commission receives all the necessary support for the proper execution of this assignment.
In addition, the CEO is to ensure smooth operations for the administrative arm of the local authority, said the minister. Also, worthy of note is that all expenses associated with the proper execution of the Commission are to be borne directly by the local authority.
These expenses include, amongst others, commissions sitting allowances, place of sitting of the commission, transcribing services, recording equipment, meals for the commission, stationery and other incidentals.
The office of the CEO is to ensure that the commission receives all the necessary support for the proper execution of this assignment, including ensuring the meeting of all statutory obligations by the entity.
Matsapha mayor and town clerk on commission of enquiry
Matsapha Town Council Mayor Sandlane Zwane and Town Clerk Lucky Sukati have welcomed the commission of enquiry with open arms.
The warring parties said the commission is the only thing that will reveal the truth and set people free.
The Minister of Housing and Urban Development Prince Simelane revealed the appointment of the commission of enquiry yesterday during a press conference held at the ministry’s boardroom.
The minister also ordered that all meetings at the council must stop until the enquiry is over. Speaking during an interview after the minister’s orders, Matsapha Town Council Mayor Zwane welcomed the commission of enquiry launched by the minister.
He said for him it is like Christmas all over again. The mayor said this means he has achieved exactly what he came to do.
He said he wanted an investigation to take place because it is a mandate he was given by ratepayers.
Zwane said all that he does is based on a mandate. He said ratepayers have all along wanted an investigation to take place ‘and the reason I pushed it and pushed it until it worked because the only way it was going to work was if there was someone who had the courage to push it.’
Zwane said if it was going to be the ministry doing the investigations, it was going to be a shame.
The mayor said this because, personally, he does not trust the people in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
He said he feels like the people in the ministry were not intervening in the issues affecting the towns but they were interfering.
When asked if he feels like the people were biased, the mayor said he would use that word but he did express his lack of trust.
He said, however, he is of the view that the commission will reveal everything. The mayor said he wants to allow the investigations to be independent without any interference from them as concerned councillors.
He said as concerned councillors, all that they are saying is that the commission must get to work and come up with the truth.
“I firmly believe that all the suspicions I had will be confirmed.”
Meanwhile, Matsapha Town Council Lucky Sukati said he welcome the commission of enquiry. He pointed out that indeed they will respect the minister’s orders and halt all meetings. Worth noting is that on Monday, there was supposed to be a breakfast meeting which was an AGM for the town council.
The CEO said the meeting will be cancelled as per the minister’s orders. He said the AGM is a councillors’ meeting where the mayor gives feedback to the public and also where the public makes submissions.
On the issue of the commission of enquiry the townclerk said as someone in the municipality office, he takes the enquiry positively because it is not meant to hurt anyone but seeks to get the facts of the matter. He said it seeks to find out what has caused all this infighting amongst council members. He said whatever the outcome, they will all accept it, he said the commission of enquiry is the only way which was going to solve the issue by divulging the facts and lies of the whole scenario.
Sukati said it must be noted that a person can twist facts for his own convenience, but it must be noted that the truth will always come out and it is the truth that will set a person free.
Sukati said he is a person of faith and whenever he addressed an issue, he likes facts to be presented always. “So whatever the commission of enquiry comes up with and whatever the people submit, will be what they see and what they view as the truth and at the end that summary will give a true picture,” the town clerk said. He said it was worrying that the organisation had reached a stage whereby a commission of enquiry was roped in to find out the truth. He said one could ask themselves if the organization couldn’t have avoided, such a situation ‘but then it is what it is now’ Sukati stated.
...Matsapha Municipality AGM suspended as meetings banned
The anticipated Matsapha Annual General Meeting, which was supposed to take place on Monday, has been suspended.
According to a public notice issued by the Town Clerk Lucky Sukati, the invitation had been extended to the Matsapha citizenry, development partners and other relevant stakeholders. However, following yesterday’s developments, where the Minister of Housing and Urban Development Prince Simelane ordered that meetings at the municipality must be stopped pending a commission of enquiry, the AGM has since been stopped. The Town Clerk, Lucky Sukati, confirmed that the meeting will no longer take place as per the orders of the minister until the commission of enquiry takes place and is finalized. This means stakeholders will have to wait for some time before they make submissions or suggestions for the budget of 2019-2020 financial year.
The timeline of events leading to Commission of Enquiry
n On November 30, 2018, Mayor Sandlane Zwane charged CEO with five charges and Councillor Musa Ndzimandze with three counts and suspended him until March 5, 2019.
n On December 3, 2018, the mayor wrote to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, asking the minister to use Part V no. 29 (4) (a) (b) of the urban Government Staff Regulations of 1969 to suspend the CEO as serious charges had been instituted against him.
n In turn, the CEO on December 4, 2018, wrote a Section 27 Report to councillors for deliberation before council. The CEO also served councillors with notices of a special meeting where the Section 27 report was supposed to be delivered.
n Then on December 4, 2018, the mayor wrote a letter to the CEO and councillors cancelling the special meeting proposed by the CEO.
n The following day the mayor served the CEO with a letter demanding that he attens a disciplinary hearing. The meeting was supposed to take place on December 7, 2018 in the council chambers at 9am.
n Soon after that the CEO wrote to the ministry asking for protection against the mayor’s disciplinary hearing.
n On December 6, 2018 the PS in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Clifford Mamba wrote a letter to the mayor stopping the disciplinary hearing against the Town Clerk.
n On December the mayor went ahead with the disciplinary hearing unfortunately the CEO snubbed the meeting. The mayor then wrote a letter to Minister of Housing and Urban Development Prince Simelane and also forwarded the letter to the CEO notifying them that the town clerk’s disciplinary hearing will proceed on December 10, with or without the CEO.
n On December 9, 2018 the CEO filed an urgent application in the Industrial Court of Eswatini seeking to stop his DC hearing.
n In turn, the mayor filed an urgent application at the High Court of Eswatini to stop a vote of no confidence against him by some councillors.
n On January 2, 2019 the town clerk issued a notice of a special council meeting scheduled for Monday, where the motion of vote of no confidence was to be officially moved.
n On January 8, 2019 a vote of no confidence meeting did not take off as the mayor said he would not open it if a certain councillor, who is a soldier, was still in office.
n The following day the same motion was moved but the mayor opposed it saying it cannot be revived, this resulted into a stand-off between the mayor and councillors.
n On January 10, 2019 a meeting was held at Matsapha Police Station between councillors and the mayor the meeting was also attended by a representative from the Ministry of Housing.
n There were reports of the mayor issuing death threats against a certain councillor, however, the threats were dismissed by the mayor
n On January 11, the minister of housing and urban development called a meeting where he ordered that meetings at Matsapha Town Council are banned until an independent commission of enquiry has dealt with the matter.
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