Former Enoch Mgijima Municipal Manager facing fraud and corruption charges

The case against Zondani will be heard next month. Photo by Anele Mbi

Zondani’s lawyer is optimistic that they will win the case while activists doubt that anything less than its dissolution will bring change to the municipality.

Nokuthula Zondani is a former municipal manager of Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality who stands accused in a case of corruption and fraud that was remanded to 2 October by the East London regional court to allow her to consult her lawyers. She was arrested by the Hawks on allegations of contravening the Municipal Financial Management Act (MFMA).

“This emanates from allegations of amending the contract between the municipality and the service provider without getting approval from the council as contained in the MFMA, and also allegations of failing as an accounting officer to prevent irregular, wasteful and unauthorised expenditure,” said Yolisa Mgolodela, the provincial spokesperson of the Hawks. The priority crimes investigation unit contend that in November 2019, the 52-year-old called a meeting in which she ultimately changed and doubled a tender contract price – from R1.2 million to R2.4 million – without any consultation or approval by the council.

Zondani’s lawyer, Mxolisi Ntsika, believes that his client has a very strong case even though they have not yet been provided with the charge sheet. “My client was a municipal manager and therefore authorised to lead in that municipality. Once we have access to a charge sheet, we will be able to plan and prepare for the case,” said Ntsika. He was informed that the charges against his client are statutory charges, meaning that they emanate from contravention of the MFMA. “It is not fraud, it is not corruption, it is not those things; these charges are directly from the MFMA,” he said.

Elitsha had the benefit of speaking to three key leaders of Komani Protest Action (KPA), a leading social movement in that municipality. According to them the entire Enoch Mgijima Municipality has been embroiled in maladministration and disregard of the law. They believe that corruption and fraud within the municipality has had an immense impact on the quality of service delivery.

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Mncedisi Mbengo, of KPA, said they have not only welcomed the arrest of the erstwhile municipal manager but wish that all those involved in corruption at the municipality be brought to book. “Normal supply chain processes have been flouted and continue to be disregarded. Employment cost is above national treasury norms and no staff is in place and developed in accordance to the staff regulations,” said Mbengo. He further said that no disciplinary actions are instituted against implicated municipal officials and that the human resource manager of the municipality is still walking free despite him facing charges of mismanagement.

“The town hall arson has absolutely more to do with corruption and maladministration. That also needs to be investigated and we strongly allege that the current political leadership is somehow involved in such arson,” said Axolile Masiza.  The major causes of the crisis at the municipality, as he sees it, are the advancement of patronage by the political leadership of the ANC as well as a lack of leadership capacity. Solomzi Nkwentsha Ntabeni, another KPA leader, said that, “Komani Protest Action precisely emerged as a response to poor service delivery and poverty stricken communities. Refuse is everywhere and imposes health hazards to the community.”  

According to Mbengo, the principal demand of the KPA, and the only solution to the crisis riddling EMLM, is to invoke section 139(1) of the constitution, which speaks about the dissolution of a municipality.

In October 2021, Elitsha reported on a R15-million sub-standard stadium that was built in Lesseyton village in Enoch Mgijima. Earlier this year, GroundUp reported on a protest that saw the main town in the municipality being shutdown for two days with protesters calling for the dissolution of the municipality due to rampant corruption and poor service delivery.

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