Mayor of the City of Johannesburg Geoff Makhubo confirmed that city manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni has taken leave months before the end of his five-year contract.
According to Makhubo’s spokesperson, Mlimandlela Ndamase, the mayor received and approved the leave request for on Thursday.
Ndamase also rejected allegations that the city manager had resigned or was coerced to do so.
“In line with the standard practices and policy in the city, the city manager has appointed Mr Floyd Brink, the chief operations officer of the city, to act in his [Lukhwareni’s] absence. Allegations and rumours that the city manager has resigned or has been coerced to, are untrue,” said Ndamase.
It was understood that following Lukhwareni’s poor performance review, Makhubo moved to initiate a disciplinary process in order to remove the “unsuitable” senior official.
But Lukhwareni reached a settlement with the council before the meeting scheduled for Thursday morning could commence. The meeting was cancelled shortly after the emergency council sitting began.
Attempts to reach ANC caucus leadership and Makhubo’s office for comment were unsuccessful.
Earlier, The Citizen reported City of Johannesburg speaker Nonceba Molwele called and subsequently cancelled an urgent council meeting on Thursday morning after apparently reaching a settlement regarding city manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni’s impending resignation.
Two sources in the Johannesburg council confirmed to The Citizen that Lukhwareni had indicated his intention to resign. Ndamase said according to Makhubo, the ANC caucus had nothing to do with this.
According to one source, Molwele called an extraordinary meeting of council following talks between council officials and Lukhwareni.
According to one source, the city manager “offered to resign” and was in talks to receive a settlement to end his contract which, according to the source, was a few months away from ending.
This after some councillors complained that his performance was “unsatisfactory” and he was found “unsuitable for the job during his last performance assessment”.
Shortly before the meeting was expected to convene, another source – a councillor – said at least one political party was preparing a statement related to the matter, but would not say whether the Lukhwareni had officially submitted his resignation.
After the meeting was cancelled, DA caucus leader Leah Knott suggested the meeting was intended to force Lukhwareni to resign.
“The DA has raised serious concerns regarding today’s cancelled council meeting which sources suggest was effectively intended to coerce the city manager into resigning,” said Knott.
According to Knott’s statement on Monday, the ANC called an extraordinary council meeting for Thursday, the agenda being a human resources item related for the disciplining of a senior official.
“We have reason to believe that the implicated senior manager is the city manager,” said Knott.
“This will leave the city’s administration leaderless when it cannot afford to be at this critical point in time. The mayor [Geoff Makhubo] is currently presiding over more than R400 million in corrupt Covid-related contracts and has been unable to exert the honest and dedicated leadership that the residents of Johannesburg deserve.”
Molwele apparently cancelled the planned council meeting soon after it began, indicating that a “settlement” with the implicated senior manager had been reached. Knott and the DA caucus believed the ANC caucus wanted Lukhwareni out to cover up Covid-19 related corruption.
“We hope that the city manager is not being made to take the fall for the mayor’s failings. The DA will not allow for any golden-handshake deal which attempts to absolve anyone in the executive of their role in the city’s Covid-19 corruption scandal.”
Lukhwareni was appointed as city manager by the DA-led administration in October 2016 under the mayorship of current ActionSA president Herman Mashaba.
The latter resigned after severing ties with the DA in 2019, leaving Lukhwareni as one of the few key members of the previous administration.
This article was updated following official communication from the City of Johannesburg.