Amathole District Municipality appointment unites opposition in outrage

Opposition parties and community-based organisations in the Eastern Cape reject the appointment s by the Amathole of a former municipal manager, Nokuthula Zondani, as director of community service.

A former manager of Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality who is currently facing corruption and fraud charges has resurfaced as Director of Community Services at Amathole District Municipality. Nokuthula Zondani was arrested in August by the Hawks for 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.

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.

The Amathole District Municipality (ADM) has confirmed that Zondani is the director of community services, a position she started on the 1st of August. The municipality claims that it was not aware that Zondani was facing corruption and fraud charges at the time of her appointment and that they followed the municipality’s vetting process. “ADM was not aware of any pending case against Ms Zondani at the time of her appointment. She resumed duties as Director Community Services on 01 August 2023. Ms Zondani was asked during her interview if she has or is aware of any pending case against her to which she responded she does not. ADM further followed its own vetting processes and they came clean with no indication of a pending case against her,” reads the ADM statement.

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Zondani’s appointment was met by widespread rejection from Amathole opposition parties and leading pressure groups in the affected communities. “This recent appointment illustrates that the ADM council continues to violate local government regulations by appointing senior officials with pending corruption charges. In July, ADM appointed Mr. Lubabalo Manjingolo as the chief financial officer [CFO], despite having a pending case of fraud and corruption dating back to 2017 when he was the CFO at Mnquma Local Municipality. The case related to the irregular awarding of contracts,” said Tessa Peacock, director of Equality Collective, an NGO based in Mqanduli.

“It can’t be that a municipality hires a fraudster, but as we all know that the ruling party always shows our people a middle finger, they are bringing all these corrupt officials so that they can assist with them (leaders of the ruling party) to loot the municipal purse. We are against that appointment,” said Siphiwo Mavuso, EFF regional secretary.

Another councillor, Similo Sitole from United Democratic Movement said that his party vehemently rejects the hiring of Nokuthula Zondani in view of the pending criminal cases against her. Komani Protest Action (KPA) a grassroots movement that exposes corruption and service delivery crises at Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality, where Ms Zondani is accused of fraud and corruption, have described Zondani’s appointment as a farce. “These appointments are a strategy to protect and reward those who have stolen from Enoch Mgijima Municipality”, said Mncedisi Mbengo, a KPA leader.

“We have written to the MEC calling on Mr Williams to investigate and take decisive action in respect of Ms. Zondani’s appointment. We have also written to the municipal manger and mayor calling on the ADM council to act within the ambit of the law and appoint people who meet the criteria stipulated in the local government regulations. We will continue to try and coordinate public pressure so that we can ensure accountable and responsive governance at ADM”, said Peacock.

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Zondani is out on R5,000 bail and has appeared in the East London regional court and her case has been remanded to the 7th of November.

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