Amatola Water boss charged with organising protests

Amatola Water has charged its suspended chief executive, Vuyo Zitumane, for allegedly manipulating procurement processes and orchestrating protests against the board by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) to disrupt Amatola’s operations.

The charges against Zitumane, who was recently reinstated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, were laid by the board’s interim chairperson, Mzi Malotana.

A disciplinary hearing against Zitumane will be held over three days and is set down to begin on September 29.

A letter sent on August 27 to Zitumane, which Mail & Guardian has seen, states that she has been charged with violating the Public Finance Management Act and Amatola supply chain management regulations by illegally appointing Crossmoor Transportation and Osher Fuels for a water harvesting tender in March.

Zitumane is also charged for unlawfully appointing Luyolo Fakazi as the chief financial officer in 2018 despite his facing charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption amounting to almost R300-million.

She faces a further charge for allegedly splitting a R14-million tender and illegally awarding sub-tenders of R500 000 each to a series of sub-contractors at inflated prices. The splitting of the tender allowed her to “avoid, circumvent and abuse” the formal tender procedures.

To facilitate this, Zitumane allegedly had the contracts of service providers terminated by the board and replaced them with the more expensive subcontractors.

Zitumane also allegedly unlawfully made advance payments to eight contractors involved in the Highbury water project in the OR Tambo district municipality based on false invoices she allegedly generated with the assistance of the project manager, Gibbs Consulting Engineers.

According to the letter, Zitumane is further charged with breaching her duties as the chief executive officer by allegedly orchestrating a number of protests by the Samwu at the board’s offices. 

She allegedly agreed to reinstate suspended Samwu officials and resolve payment disputes in return for disrupting a board meeting at which she was to face a disciplinary hearing.

Zitumane is additionally charged with failing to disclose her active directorship in seven companies, a contravention of the entity’s conflict management policy.

Amatola is one of several water entities that has been placed under review by the human settlements, water and sanitation minister, Lindiwe Sisulu. Sisulu dissolved the Amatola board in March.

Since Zitumane was first suspended, Amatola has gone through four acting chief executive officer and an interim board chairperson.

The Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit have been looking into alleged corruption at Amatola Water, which is responsible for bulk water supply to local municipalities under the OR Tambo district municipality.

Sisulu has also appointed interim boards at Lepelle North Water and Umgeni Water as part of this review process.

Last week the high court in Pietermaritzburg turned down an application for an urgent interdict against the Umgeni decision by several board members. 

This week lawyers for Umgeni board member Visvin Reddy wrote to the state attorney requesting the record of the decision taken by her as part of a challenge to the decision, which is still to be heard by the court.

Sisiulu’s spokesperson had not responded to calls for comment from the M&G by the time of publication.

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