DURBAN – The new board of Mhlathuze Water are sticking to their guns after dismissing former chief executive Sibusiso Makhanya four years after he was suspended.
Makhanya was placed on suspension by the previous board of Mhlathuze Water after a forensic investigation made findings of impropriety and tender irregularities against him.
However, Makhanya yesterday vowed to take legal action over his dismissal.
The new board said yesterday that in addition to the forensic report, further allegations of misconduct relating to impropriety, maladministration and tender irregularities against Makhanya had been brought forward when they took over the matter, “which warranted his immediate dismissal”.
In 2016 Makhanya challenged his suspension on the grounds that the board that resolved to suspend him had not been lawfully constituted. He alleged that his suspension had been carried out irregularly and was due to the ulterior motives of the then chairperson of Mhlathuze Water, Dudu Myeni.
Makhanya denied any wrongdoing and alleged in his court papers that Myeni had wanted to get rid of him before the amalgamation of the Mhlathuze and Umgeni water boards.
He claimed that Myeni told him that he was being investigated because he did not follow her instructions and took decisions that did not suit her. Myeni denied this.
After lengthy litigation in the case, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled last November that the new board should determine whether Makhanya should face any disciplinary charges in relation to the forensic report.
It is understood that Makhanya’s suspension had been set down for arbitration at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) next month, however this is likely to be moot due to his dismissal.
Commenting on the decision to part ways with Makhanya, board chairperson Thabi Shange said it was critical for them to finalise the “long outstanding matter”.
“As the board, we carry the unambiguous mandate of ensuring that the highest ethical standards are set at Mhlathuze Water and of engendering a culture of accountability and leadership stability at the utility,” she said.
“For this to happen it was critical for us to finalise the long outstanding matter of the erstwhile chief executive.”
Approached for comment yesterday, Makhanya said he was shocked by his dismissal. “I will be approaching the court because these are just allegations and I have not been afforded the opportunity to state my case.”
Referring to a recent announcement of a probe by the Special Investigating Unit into Umgeni Water, Makhanya said he hoped the investigation could be extended to Mhlathuze Water so that “an independent body can determine who the real culprits were”.
Asked about the CCMA arbitration date and the SCA judgment, Mhlathuze Water spokesperson Siyabonga Maphumulo said the board had taken cognisance of all the avenues Makhanya had explored to challenge the allegations against him.
“Mr Makhanya reserves his right to approach the CCMA and all other avenues to challenge his dismissal. However, the board have followed due diligence and applied themselves to the matter before serving him with his letter,” Maphumulo said.
The board said interim chief executive Mthokozisi Duze would continue in his position while they looked at permanently filling the vacancy.
– THE MERCURY