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Conflict-riddled Nelson Mandela Bay places city manager on precautionary suspension

Conflict-riddled Nelson Mandela Bay places city manager on precautionary suspension
Nelson Mandela Bay city manager Noxolo Nqwazi has been put on precautionary suspension. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Following an emergency council meeting on Friday, Nelson Mandela Bay’s city manager, Dr Noxolo Nqwazi, was placed on precautionary suspension with full pay.

The Nelson Mandela Bay city manager was placed on precautionary suspension with full pay on Friday, 20 October, following an emergency meeting of the city council.

Her suspension follows two weeks of running battles between her and the metro’s executive mayor, Gary van Niekerk.

The Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, has demanded that action be taken against Nqwazi after her arrest by the Hawks in 2022. He has made this a condition for the release of R781-million in grants to the metro.

Nqwazi was arrested by the Hawks in September 2022 for her alleged role in the unlawful signing off of a R24-million tender for toilets to be installed in informal settlements. The tender – awarded during the pandemic-related National State of Disaster – was flagged by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The Nelson Mandela Bay metro has had three coalition governments since the local government election in 2021. The first was led by the ANC, the second by the DA and the third by an ANC-EFF coalition with the National Alliance’s Van Niekerk becoming mayor.

During the first ANC coalition government, the council had decided to legally review the SIU report. Nqwazi was also exonerated by the metro’s disciplinary board. 

On 28 February 2023, a judge ruled that the council was not entitled to review a report just because they did not like its conclusions and findings.

Subsequently, the DA claimed that the city’s disciplinary board had been “captured”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: DA asks Eastern Cape premier to appoint commission to probe State Capture in Nelson Mandela Bay

Nqwazi is standing trial with the metro’s former human settlements director Norman Mapu; Nelson Mandela Bay ANC regional secretary Luyolo Nqakula; businessman Xolani Masela and his spouse, Nwabisa; and former DA councillors Trevor Louw, Neville Higgins and Victor Manyathi.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Nelson Mandela Bay city boss, ANC regional secretary and ex-DA councillors face money laundering and tender fraud charges

Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Gary van Niekerk arrives at Friday’s city council meeting. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

According to the charge sheet, the three councillors were paid to vote for a motion of no confidence in a previous DA mayor, Athol Trollip, in 2018.

In August, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana requested that action be taken against Nqwazi. He said he would release R781-million in grant funding only on the condition that this was done. Van Niekerk has said that the council’s decision to take action against Nqwazi will ensure that the December tranche of the grants will be paid.

Godongwana also called for action to be taken for the way in which a senior executive director of the metro, Andile Qwaba, was given a golden handshake of R3-million, only to be appointed at the Nelson Mandela Bay Development Agency a few weeks later.

Two weeks ago, Van Niekerk asked for a special council meeting to discuss taking disciplinary action against Nqwazi, after she had declared his seat and that of his fellow councillor Stag Mitchell as vacant.

Van Niekerk’s party has been beset by internal leadership problems agitated by the party’s third member of the council, Bevan Brown, and the president of a breakaway faction Japie Jansen. Nqwazi said she had declared the vacancies based on a letter from Brown and Jansen claiming that Van Niekerk and Mitchell’s membership of the party had been revoked.

Van Niekerk hit back by laying criminal charges against Nqwazi for her actions, which were, he said, in contravention of a settlement agreement. This was the third time that she had declared their seats vacant, and a court previously ordered her to consult Van Niekerk and Mitchell before she sends a letter declaring their seats vacant to the Independent Electoral Commission, but in the latest instance she failed to do so.

On Wednesday, 18 October, the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court in Gqeberha issued an interim interdict that would keep Van Niekerk and Mitchell in their positions pending a legal review of the situation to be heard later.

Van Niekerk immediately called a council meeting. 

In terms of the resolutions adopted by the council, Nqwazi has been placed on precautionary suspension but with full pay pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing against her. DM

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