Sihle Manda and Kamini Padayachee
Durban – Two ANC eThekwini councillors continue to draw R35 000 monthly salaries from beleaguered ratepayers despite being in prison for murder.
To add insult to injury, Mduduzi Ngcobo and Velile Lutsheku have not performed their duties ince February last year, when they were arrested for the September 2014 murder of community activist Thulisile Ndlovu in her Thokoza home near Pinetown.
The city has paid the two almost R1 million in salaries since their arrests. However the bill could be much higher as The Mercury also understands that they were assigned bodyguards after their arrests. This could not be independently verified by the council at the time of publication.
Ngcobo is a KwaNdengezi ward councillor. Lutsheku is a proportional representation councillor. They were charged and convicted together with triggerman Mlungisi Ndlovu of murder in May.
Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel sentenced the three in the Durban High Court to life imprisonment for the premeditated murder and denied them leave to appeal.
Thulisile was a branch chairwoman of shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo.
This week council Speaker Logie Naidoo dropped a bombshell when he refused to dismiss the two, despite the convictions.
They are serving their sentences at Westville Prison after their bids to apply for leave to appeal against their convictions and sentences were dismissed on the day they were sentenced.
This was confirmed by provincial National Prosecutions Authority spokeswoman Natasha Kara on Thursday.
DA provincial and eThekwini caucus leader Zwakelele Mncwango this week demanded to know why the minutes of the city’s town planning committee still reflected Lutsheku as being its chairman. He said he failed “to understand how someone can be convicted and jailed and still reflect as a chairperson of a committee. There’s something wrong there”.
Naidoo offered to “educate” Mncwango on council processes.
“According to the Municipal Structures Act, until a person exhausts the appeals processes, council cannot (act). So in all fairness, no matter how strong we feel about this matter, we are guided by legislation. (That is) until that process is finalised. As I understand it, they have applied for leave to appeal. My hands are tied,” Naidoo said, adding that the convicted killers were still city councillors.
Mncwango protested, asking what the ANC was doing about the convictions. He was dismissed with laughter by some ANC councillors, before Naidoo offered Mncwango directions to the party’s offices.
According to the Municipal Structures Act, councillors can vacate their office for several reasons including if they are “no longer qualified to be a councillor”.
Labour law attorney Michael Maeso, of Shepstone and Wylie, said the employer could take steps, in accordance with a process governed by labour law regulations, to terminate employment if a person was convicted and imprisoned.
“The employee is, due to their imprisonment, no longer able to perform their contractual obligations and the extent of time they would not be able to be at work would be undetermined because it is not known how long appeal processes would take.”
Maeso said another factor was whether the councillors were “suitable to hold their office” given their convictions.
“Irrespective of the appeals they have lodged, questions about their suitability have to be raised. The employees in a situation like this should remove themselves from the duties until such time as they are exonerated.”
Since leave to appeal was denied by the trial court, the only recourse the councillors have is to petition Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for leave to appeal against their convictions and sentences.
If granted leave, the councillors would have to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal. While The Mercury understands both councillors intend to petition for leave to appeal, they have not done so yet.
Their attorney, Bulelani Mazomba, declined to confirm this on Thursday. He said he had been instructed not to speak to the media.
The Mercury was unable to reach Naidoo for questions.