Broke Emfuleni blows over R55m on employee labour dispute

Controversial Emfuleni local municipality, located in Gauteng’s Vanderbijylpark, has spent more than R50-million on lawyers defending itself from the employee who took them to court over unfair labour practices. The Labour Court eventually settled the matter and awarded the employee over R700, 000.

Maladministration of state funds

This shocking revelation came during the question-and-answer session. The DA’s member of provincial legislature, Kingsol Chabalala, unleashed questions to Mzi Khumalo. Khumalo is the MEC for Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs. Chabalala questioned him on the maladministration of state funds in Emfuleni.

In 2018, an employee of the municipality, Edward, got involved in a labour dispute with with Emfuleni. This resulted in the municipality paying four law firm tens of millions of rands to defend the council.

Unfair labour practice

Responding to Chabalala, Khumalo admitted that the costly R50-million labour matter.  Radebe was fighting an unfair labour practice relating to benefits on acting allowance.

Khumalo admitted that the municipality paid Madhlopha and Thenga Inc Attorneys an amount of R37,541 183.96, while Botes Heerden Inc was paid R15,996 244.35. Mojela Hlazo Attorneys pocketed a whopping R1,730 813.53.

Another law firm, Kgokong Attorneys, walked away with R47,500 in the same matter. That  of fighting for the municipality in the labour dispute with Radebe.

All four law firms have been raking in millions of rand since 2017, a year before Radebe took Emfuleni head-on.

The funds were kept from being channelled by the municipality to these law firms until this month.

Waste of money outsourcing legal services

Chabalala said: “The Emfuleni Local Municipality has spent R55,315 741.84 in a legal dispute with an employee over unfair labour practices. These are relating to benefits on acting allowance. While residents suffer from a constant shortage of water, poor refuse collection and persistent power outages.

“This money spent on outsourcing legal services could have been used to improve service delivery. Legal services could have been provided internally instead.”

Chabalala added that the cash-strapped municipality is struggling to deliver services to its residents.

Labour court awarded Radebe R739k

“It is unacceptable that Emfuleni is spending such staggering sums of money to fight one labour dispute when the Labour Court has already ordered it to pay R739,551.42.

“The return on investment for the Emfuleni ratepayer on this out-of-control spending is nonexistent.

“The municipality’s exorbitant spending on outsourced legal representation indicates a lack of capacity within its internal legal unit.

“It has now become the norm for Emfuleni officials to use law firms representing the municipality to loot public funds. And this is a major concern,” he said.

Public Protector to be roped in to probe the futile expenditure

Chabalala added that his party was demanding immediate intervention from Khumalo on this reckless spending. Also that the MEC should ensure that the Emfuleni legal unit serves its purpose. That of handling legal issues about the municipality.

“Emfuleni’s labour disputes must be resolved quickly and internally, not at the expense of ratepaying residents.

“We will also be referring this matter to the Public Protector should the MEC fail to investigate and hold those implicated to account,” said Chabalala.

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