Mpumalanga’s capital city has failed to keep to the law relating to the release of information to the public.
For 48 days, the Mbombela local municipality has failed to positively respond to queries about a R1,5 million golden handshake paid out to former municipal manager Jacob Dladla.
This follows a Promotion to Access to Information Act request from African Eye News Service (AENS) that was lodged with the municipality more than a month ago.
“This is a failure to adhere to PAIA. It clearly says government must answer within 30 days. We have found that a number of municipalities and even smaller cities across South Africa are simply failing to provide information in accordance with the Act,” said Public Services Accountability Monitor at Rhodes University Derek Luyt.
On November 18 2011, AENS requested the municipality to give information about decisions that led to Dladla’s suspension, inquiry and consequent dismissal, which ended with a behind-closed-doors council decision to award him a settlement.
The municipality sat on the request for a month before deciding in December to shift responsibility of responding to the request from the municipal manager’s office to mayor Cathy Dlamini’s executive assistant Bheki Nxumalo, who has since failed to release the information.
Despite not being present during the October council meeting in which the settlement was reached, Dlamini has publicly defended the golden handshake given to Dladla.
In a confidential report to council, acting mayor Sibusiso Mathonsi said at the time that the municipality had “insufficient funds to cover exorbitant legal costs” to oppose Dladla’s labour court appeal to his December 2009 dismissal.
Democratic Alliance (DA) councillors opposed the settlement but were outvoted by the ANC.
This week DA councillor Joe Koster said the party had asked the Public Protector to investigate the matter.
Dladla’s dismissal related to irregularities surrounding preparations for the 2010 World Cup, the building of the Mbombela stadium and Dladla’s refusal to implement 361 council resolutions.
Jimmy Mohlala, municipal speaker at the time, was scheduled to testify against Dladla but was killed at his home in KaNyamazane only a week before his scheduled testimony.
As early as April 2008 forensic investigators from Ngobe-Nkosi Attorneys recommended that Dladla be dismissed.
Dladla’s disciplinary hearing started in July 2008 and was postponed five times after which he was finally sacked.
However, Luyt warned that the PAIA doesn’t force government departments and municipalities to release information.
“There are no sanctions against government bodies that ignore a request and the only option is to take the body to court but this is costly,” said Luyt. “It’s especially a problem in rural areas and small municipalities where people are denied access to information. Most often the case is that officials don’t know how to deal with these PAIA requests.”
Chantal Kisoon, from the South African Human Rights Commission, said in a report to AENS that only one municipality out of the 21 municipalities in Mpumalanga fully complied with the PAIA.
Municipal spokeswoman Bessie Pienaar said on Wednesday that her communication office would “print and show the request to acting municipal manager, Sgananda Siboza.