council bars top two

UMHLABUYALINGANA municipal manager Eric Manqele and chief financial officer Mthandeni Zungu have been suspended after allegations of corruption.

UMHLABUYALINGANA municipal manager Eric Manqele and chief financial officer Mthandeni Zungu have been suspended after allegations of corruption.

Their trip to Switzerland has also been called off.

The two were suspended at a special council meeting held on Wednesday night, mayor Alison Ncube confirmed.

Though the reasons for their suspension were kept under wraps, Sowetan learnt that the two officials were accused of gross financial mismanagement.

On Tuesday Sowetan highlighted the fact that employees had not been paid their October salaries and Manqele was being held responsible.

Manqele and Zungu were also forced by the provincial government to cancel their trip to Switzerland. The trip was apparently an all- expenses-paid deal offered by the Swiss to attract investors.

Opposition parties called for the trip to be cancelled, saying it would fail to attract investment.

"Yes, I can confirm that they have been suspended. But at this stage I cannot divulge more details, except that allegations of financial mismanagement were leveled at them," Ncube said.

"An internal forensic investigation will be instituted and that is when one will be in a position to say whether the allegations are true or not."

Ncube said they would appoint independent people to conduct investigations. ANC councillor Solo Mkhombo said they were satisfied with the way in which the issue had been handled.

"There have been a lot of irregularities in this municipality and we hope the investigations will vindicate what we have been saying," Mkhombo said.

Vernon Mchunu, spokesperson for the department of local government, said the uMhlabuyalingana municipality was among the municipalities in the province that performed poorly.

"The situation in uMhlabuyalingana seems dire," he said. "The department has just finalised a forensic report in respect of this municipality. MEC Nomusa Dube is considering the report."

He said a lot had been done to help the municipality in terms of financial support and otherwise, but to no avail. Mchunu said his department was also concerned about the situation in Okhahlamba and Mbonambi municipalities.

"The MEC has promised the nation that swift action will be taken by the department to remedy the situation at the ailing municipalities in the province to ensure there is no disruption of service delivery."

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