Meddling water affairs minister acting unlawfully, says ousted boss
The former head of the Mhlathuze water board in Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal has accused Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane of acting “unlawfully” when she announced a planned merger with Umgeni Water.The suspended CEO of Mhlathuze Water, Sibusiso Makhanya, sent a lawyer’s letter to the minister, reserving his right to challenge the minister’s decision.He said, in a letter through his lawyer Dinesha Deeplal of Strauss Daly, that the minister’s proposal tabled last November to dissolve the water utility was "unlawful, irrational and driven by ulterior motives".
Mhlatuze Water is based in Richards Bay and caters for areas in Umkhanyakude.
Mokonyane last November gave notice in the Government Gazette of her intention to disestablish Mhlathuze Water and transfer its staff, assets and liabilities to Umgeni Water - the country's second largest water board - and changing the name to KwaZulu-Natal Water Board.
But Makhanya said Mokonyane’s proposal to merge Mhlatuze Water was not in line with the implementation of the rationalisation of water services and water management institutions.
He also disputed that the decision was in line with the Institutional Reforms and Realignment (IRR) project whose objectives include equitable access to water and sustainable use of water.
“We therefore object to the proposed disestablishment of Mhlathuze Water, when done in circumstances where no White Paper has preceded the proposed disestablishment.”Deeplal said Mokonyane's intended decision to disestablish Mhlathuze is "clearly intended as a means of indirectly amalgamating the Boards of Mhlathuze Water and Umgeni Water, and thus circumvent the minister's required compliance with the Public Finance Management Act in requiring the approval of the National Treasury."
He said National Treasury had also expressed reservations and concerns in 2015 when the proposed merger of Mhlathuze and Umgeni Water Boards was first mooted.
It was reported last year that Treasury had warned Mokonyane the merger could result in credit downgrades.
Makhanya's lawyers had given Mokonyane until January 20 to withdraw the notice but she failed to do so.
Deeplal said the minister hadn't responded and her client was deciding on his next course of action.
The department didn't respond to queries from Times Select.The latest incident comes after Mokonyane's meddling with the Mhlathuze's Water board in 2015 as well as the Umgeni Water Board last year.
In 2015, former chairperson of the Mhlatuze Water board Dudu Myeni suspended Makhanya in November 2015, citing allegations of corruption. However Makhanya successfully overturned the suspension in the Pietermaritzburg High court arguing that Myeni had no power to suspend him because her term of office had expired and was illegally extended by Mokonyane.
Then City Press reported in July last year that Mokonyane had seized power at Umgeni and dissolved the board in what was suspected to be an effort to influence tender processes. Mokonyane denied the allegations and a new board was appointed in September.