In 2019, Bitou Council re-employed Lonwabo Ngoqo, an ANC deployee, as Municipal Manager even though he was absolutely barred from holding the post. The disqualification stemmed from a regulation that says no municipal employee who has been dismissed for serious financial misconduct may hold senior office in the municipal sector within the ensuing ten years.
When the Municipality, counselled by its lawyers, sought to skirt the ban by nullifying the dismissal, the MEC had no choice but to litigate in order to enforce the law. The Municipality, digging in its heels, mounted a no-holds-barred defence that, despite the mountain of money and paper it threw at the case, proved entirely futile. It lost the case in the Labour Court, lost once again in the Labour Appeal Court, and has in the last week failed once again before the Constitutional Court.
By throwing out the case, the ConCourt finally put an end to a fight that was shocking in principle, wrong in law, and a dreadful waste of ratepayers’ money.
In the belief that it could help in the presentation of the issues, the PBRRA became an active party to the case. In obvious recognition of the increasingly important role that civic organizations such as the RA are being forced to play in governance, the ConCourt ordered the Municipality to pay the PBRRA’s costs. By doing so, it sent out a message that conscientious activism by civic organizations generally will be judicially recognized and recompensed.
This is very gratifying, not least because it enables the Association to take up the cudgels when this is demanded as a response to future misconduct and malpractice in our municipality.
Strictly speaking, Ngoqo must now pay back the R1.5m “settlement” he received at the time when he was re-employed and all the amounts he has received by way of salary in the course of his unlawful employment. The new Council, which under the energetic leadership of incoming Mayor Dave Swart is showing great promise, will now have to decide whether it is worth pursuing him for the recovery of this money.