VBS-linked official earns R100K a month on suspension. Wants R3m more to quit_1

A cash-strapped Limpopo municipality continues to pay the salary of a municipal manager who was suspended more than a year ago for allegedly irregularly investing nearly R200 million of municipal funds in the collapsed Venda Business Society (VBS). The manager, Minah Maredi, was suspended with pay and has been smiling all the way to the bank for 16 months, raking in R100,000 (ie, R1.6 million), while sitting idle, and she is demanding a further R3 million settlement from the municipality. The matter has now led to calls for the acting municipal manager, council speaker, and the chief whip’s heads –...
A cash-strapped Limpopo municipality continues to pay the salary of a municipal manager who was suspended more than a year ago for allegedly irregularly investing nearly R200 million of municipal funds in the collapsed Venda Business Society (VBS).

The manager, Minah Maredi, was suspended with pay and has been smiling all the way to the bank for 16 months, raking in R100,000 (ie, R1.6 million), while sitting idle, and she is demanding a further R3 million settlement from the municipality.

The matter has now led to calls for the acting municipal manager, council speaker, and the chief whip’s heads – following accusations that they’ve intentionally been working at a snail’s pace – to put the matter to bed.

Both the Municipal Public Accounts Committee and the office of the MEC for cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs, Basikop Makamu, have said the matter needs to be finalised immediately. That has proven difficult as the defiant Maredi wrote to the municipality through her lawyers demanding her nearly R3 million settlement.

The Citizen has learnt that Maredi was appointed as municipal manager for Elias Motsoaledi municipality in 2016. A year later, she was allegedly fingered among ANC bigwigs, who convinced council to invest R190 million in the collapsed VBS Bank.

The investment was regarded as irregular and unlawful by National Treasury, as it was in contravention of the prescripts of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA). According to MFMA regulations, municipalities are not allowed to invest in mutual banks.

In light of this, a special council sitting at the municipality held in December 2018 decided to suspend Maredi with pay. Director for the municipal support team Mishack Kgwale was then appointed to fill in for Maredi in an acting capacity.

Leader of the Bolsheviks political party in the municipality Cllr Seun Mookgotsi said: “I think it is time the municipality puts the Maredi debacle to bed. We are a poor rural municipality without any tangible revenue collection. But despite that, we continue to pay the salaries of two municipal managers; one working and the other sitting at home doing nothing. We therefore cannot afford to pay the salary of Maredi and Kgwale because we are left without a penny.”

Mokgotji said the municipality was unable to collect litter, complete projects, or pay service providers on a monthly basis because there was no money.

“How do we then allow someone to be suspended for nearly two years with pay while the communities out there live from hand to mouth,” he asked.

In a letter written to the council (in possession of The Citizen) by her lawyers, the suspended manager proposed that the municipality should pay her a salary of up to R2,791,227.00, which would equal her salary until 2022 when her term is meant to lapse, as well as cover her legal costs incurred during the battle surrounding the matter since her suspension on 7 December 2018.

She also wants them to write her a letter that will supposedly clear her of any wrongdoing in the VBS scandal, in exchange for her resignation.

Yesterday Makamu, whose department oversees the day-to-day functioning of municipalities, advised the council to tread carefully on the matter.

“It is true that there is no value for money when the municipality continues to pay the salary of the manager while sitting at home. But if the council opts to settle with the manager, that settlement should not exceed six months,” he said.

Pressed for comment, municipal spokesperson Simon Makua had only this to say: “The municipality confirms the receipt of the letter from the lawyers of Minah Maredi. The municipality will take that matter to council for consideration.”

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