According to the city, the agreement to part ways was amicable and ANC chief whip in the metro Solly Mogase said the caucus welcomed the decision because it ended an impasse that was hindering service delivery.
An impasse, which he claimed had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Lukhwareni simply not being good at his job.
“When the ANC-led coalition took over, (Makhubo) gave a commitment to work with the administration as long as they were ready to work with new leadership. Since there was a disjuncture between the two, the decision was made for the sitting city manager to part ways,” said Mogase.
Among Lukhwareni’s “sins” was his apparent failure to act against city employees who leaked audit documents pointing out alleged fraud and corruption in an R80 million personal protective equipment contract. While Makhubo later insisted the city was already investigating the allegations before the story broke, Mogase said Lukhwareni failed to ensure there was consequence management when the papers were leaked.
The ANC caucus was also dissatisfied with the quality of several reports, including those on Covid-19 expenditure compiled by the city manager, citing lower than expected quality.
Lukhwareni, said Mogase, was also failing in his duties to timeously enact decisions made by the council, a complaint which was apparently made by Makhubo numerous times in council meetings.
“It had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the city manager as an accounting officer,” Mogase said.
“We had a city manager who was not ready to actively implement a decision made and will either maybe drag or delay when we don’t have time for such. This has usually been raised by the executive mayor to say we have been waiting…”
The amount of the settlement will be publicised after the next meeting when a report on the agreement reached between Makhubo and Lukhwareni, including his settlement, would be presented, Mogase said.
The DA caucus in the city has already indicated it will oppose the settlement. DA caucus leader Leah Knott reiterated her concern that the true reason for Lukhwareni’s departure was being covered up, ostensibly to protect those guilty of siphoning off Covid-19 response funds.
Under the Municipal Financial Management Act, disbursements of over R200 000 from the City have to be signed off by the city manager as the accounting officer of the municipality.
“I repeat my concerns that (Lukhwareni) is being made the scapegoat for (Makhubo’s) failings in the city, which includes more than R400 million in corrupt Covid-19 expenditure, along with service delivery falling apart,” said Knott.
“In an election year we have to worry that Dr Lukhwareni is being pushed aside to make way for a more compliant cadre who will enable looting so as to fund the campaign of the morally and financially bankrupt ANC.”
The DA is expected to oppose the settlement agreement with Lukhwareni and “any attempt by the ANC to install one of their cadres”.
Mogase rubbished the insinuation the ANC-led coalition would appoint an unsuitable candidate, insisting that the caucus and the coalition would not compromise on the integrity and calibre required for the position.
The ANC caucus called a special council meeting early last month to discuss a “human resources report” but this was cancelled at the 11th hour by the Speaker who claimed a “settlement” had been reached with the official in question. Immediately after this sitting, Lukhwareni went on “special leave” amid rumours that he was in the process of resigning.
Giving his version of events, Mogase said the HR report was not tabled last month because the city manager requested he be given time to make a decision. It was apparently Lukhwareni’s proposal that he and Makhubo sign an agreement in order to avoid “any other inquiries” and to end the delay of service delivery.
This matter was apparently raised unopposed in council. Lukhwareni had not responded to requests for comment on his side of the story after numerous attempts this week.