THE adoption of the mayoral handbook at Enoch Mgijima Municipality, which gives executive mayor Lindiwe Gunuza Nkwentsha and her family unlimited access to municipal funds, has raised the ire of two opposition parties.
The item was tabled during a special council meeting last Thursday.
The mayoral handbook was developed by the South African Local Government Association to regulate the rights, duties and expectations of executive mayors and mayors, with financial implications including travel arrangements and expenses and official accommodation of the mayor.
The council recommendations that an official residence be made available to the mayor subject to council determining an appropriate monthly rental and that the rental does not exceed her housing allowance, were approved by council.
The issue of transport, specifically the payment for flights, was not highlighted, but both the DA and the EFF raised objections to allowances with financial implications as stipulated in the mayoral handbook.
Both parties decried the decision that would allow Gunuza Nkwentsha, her husband and her children fly business class for both domestic and international flights, with the municipality footing the bill.
The handbook also allows for the payment of accommodation for her and her family while on official business.
Speaking during a press briefing on Monday, EFF chief whip in Enoch Mgijima Luthando Amos condemned the “municipal attitude of misusing government resources like this”.
“We distance ourselves from the resolution for the mayor, her husband and family to fly first class,” he said, adding that such a move would be tantamount to looting of municipal resources.
Amos said it was wrong to resolve to rent a mayoral house without first determining rental. “Council has allowed her to rent a house at whatever amount she sees fit.
“The EFF would have thought the municipality would buy a house,” Amos said.
He said the party would not be part of resolutions for the office of the speaker, Mzoxolo Peter, to budget R1-million for a car. He said this could be seen as “spitting in the faces of poor people”.
The EFF demanded the release of the housing commission report commissioned by former mayor Nozi Makanda. “What are they hiding?
“When the report is released, everyone will see just how corrupt the ANC government is.
“We are consulting our lawyers to see if we can take legal action against the implementation of these resolutions.”
In a statement, DA caucus leader Chris de Wet said the party strongly objected to the adoption of the mayoral handbook in its present format.
“The DA is of the opinion that this is a waste of ratepayers’ money,” De Wet said.
“The mayor should travel economy class and there is no reason why they should pay for the travelling and accommodation costs of the mayor’s family.”
He said Gunuza Nkwentsha would be provided with a furnished mayoral residence, which the municipality would be responsible for maintaining.
The DA said Enoch Mgijima Municipality could not afford such luxury and it represented a waste of ratepayers’ money, while opening the door to large-scale abuse of taxpayers’ money.
“The mayor should utilise her private residence, like all other councillors and make use of her generous housing allowance.”
An official residence, fully furnished, would cost ratepayers millions, money which should be spent on service delivery and infrastructure, he said.
In addition, De Wet said, in terms of the municipal finance management Act 56 of 2003, the mayor was obliged to report to council all irregular and unauthorised expenditure.
However, he said, the mayor and her committee attempted to mislead council by failing to report a payment of R2.9-million made on September 15 this year to illegally striking workers as irregular and unauthorised.
The payment was never presented to council or approved at any stage.
The mayor failed to answer the DA’s questions on whether the payment was irregular and unauthorised.
De Wet said Gunuza Nkwentsha also failed to answer if the “no work, no pay” principle was applied to the striking workers’s salaries and if the ratepayers would be credited for services not provided during the illegal strike.
The DA would remain committed to open and transparent local government and would pursue this matter to its full extent, De Wet said.
Peter could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.