THE mass suspension of top officials at a number of protest-plagued municiIpalities in Mpumalanga has affected service delivery negatively .

This allegedly sparked the recent wave of violent service delivery protests in the province.

An analysis of the Lekwa, Mbombela, Msukaligwa and Nkomazi municipalities allegedly shows that the suspension of senior staffers and vacant key positions at these councils have impacted negatively on performance.

The analysis was done by the provincial cooperative governance and traditional affairs department after a wave of service delivery protests since the beginning of the year.

The Mbombela municipality was the most affected, with almost all the townships under its jurisdiction experiencing violent service delivery protests.

Cooperative governance and traditional affairs departmental spokesman Simphiwe Kunene told Sowetan yesterday that on the basis of these findings, his department would provide experts and support to strengthen the capacities of these municipalities.

"We have already assembled a team of experts to provide support to the affected municipalities.

"These experts will be there for an indefinite period to ensure that they help build capacity in the identified areas," Kunene said.

He said MEC Norman Mokoena was not impressed by the long delay in resolving the case of the suspended Mbombela municipal manager.

Kunene said Mokoena felt that "the Dladla matter had been dragging on for far too long".

Jacob Dladla was suspended early last year after he allegedly appointed the provincial 2010 coordinator, Differ Mogale, without following procedure.

The council ruled that Dladla had irregularly appointed Mogale to his R480000 a year position and that he had failed to exercise proper oversight over payments to various 2010 contractors.

Mokoena said while he was aware that the dispute had been referred to a court of law, the matter needed to be resolved urgently as it had a direct bearing on the functioning of the municipality.

"In an effort to resolve the issues around Dladla, I will be engaging the legal representatives of both parties with a view to their trying to resolve this matter expediently.

"This will be done, respecting the legal processes that are unfolding on this matter," said Mokoena.