Phineas Legodi resigns from water board after latest court defeat

Phineas Legodi, the suspended chief executive of the Lepelle North Water Board in Limpopo, has resigned from his post.

The move by Legodi, who was placed on precautionary suspension by Lepelle’s interim board in June, comes days after the high court in Pretoria dismissed his fourth court challenge to the decision.

Legodi was suspended pending an investigation into alleged maladministration at the entity a month after an interim board was appointed by human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

Joe Mathebula, the chair of Lepelle’s  interim board, confirmed the resignation, which took place late on Thursday.

“He was facing a disciplinary hearing this morning in terms of charges of insubordination, over which the board had placed him on suspension. There are also further charges regarding maladministration. Instead of facing the hearing, he resigned,” Mathebula said.

Mathebula said that the board reserved its right to continue with the maladministration probe into Legodi, despite the resignation. Investigations into the entity were also being conducted by the office of the Public Protector and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which are expected to be concluded soon.

Sisulu has dissolved the boards of a number of the water entities under her control. The review has seen a fightback by a number of board members and executives.

Sisulu has dissolved the boards of the Umgeni Water Board, Sedibeng Water and Magalies Water in recent months as part of a process of reviewing the entities, mainly because their appointment by her predecessor, Gugile Nkwinti, had not been regularised by the cabinet.

She has also appointed an interim board at Lepelle.

On Monday, Legodi lost his fourth bid to have his suspension set aside and to challenge the appointment of an interim board at Lepelle by Sisulu in May. 

The board had suspended Legodi pending an investigation into irregularities at the entity under his leadership.

The court  found that Legodi had failed to prove any urgency in the application, which was the fourth he had brought against the board since his suspension. In addition, the court found Legodi’s conduct had been “tantamount to abuse of the court in the quest to obtain relief in the matter”, because he had failed to mention the earlier applications, all of which had been dismissed.

The court found Legodi was suspended on full pay and was not suffering any prejudice because of the suspension, which was in place for the duration of the investigation, the outcome of which he could challenge.

He had also failed to prove that the board had been guilty of any acts of unlawful or wasteful expenditure, the court said.

Last week Umgeni Water board member Visvin Reddy and other members lodged an urgent application for an interdict in the Pietermaritzburg high court. This was after Sisulu dissolved it and appointed an interim board.

However, the court also ruled that the matter was not urgent and it was set down for August 26, when Sisulu’s opposing argument will be heard. 

In terms of the court order, Sisulu undertook that the board would not sit, or take any decisions, until after the matter went back to court.

Sisulu’s spokesperson, Yonela Diko, said that the minister welcomed the decision that the application, which she would oppose, was not urgent.

Diko said the department was “concerned by the sense of entitlement of various board 

members”, who had accepted the ministry’s invitation to serve, knowing that the minister had the right to remove them for a variety of reasons which includes efficiency, financial management and regularisation. 

Diko said Sisulu “noted” the decision by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration that Amatola Water had acted irregularly in suspending its chief executive officer, Vuyo Zitumane, on Sisulu’s instruction.

Diko said Sisulu would challenge the ruling, which he described as “bizarre” because she had not interfered in the board’s decision to suspending Zitumane, which it had taken by itself.

“The minister does not suspend, hire or fire employees of water boards. That remains solely the task of the board,”’ Diko said.

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