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Storm brewing over Municipal Manager

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A storm is brewing around the head of Municipal Manager Johan Leibbrandt.
A storm is brewing around the head of Municipal Manager Johan Leibbrandt.

A battle is brewing between the mayoral council of Drakenstein Municipality (DM) and the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) over Municipal Manager Johan Leibbrandt.

Earlier this year it became apparent that the municipality wished to maintain the services of Leibbrandt for a second five-year term, despite the fact that he had reached the prescribed retirement age of 65.

His term has already expired and the position of Drakenstein City Manager was advertised last year, after which interviews took place.

But according to municipal insiders, despite satisfactory applications for the position, the mayoral committee unanimously decided Leibbrandt’s term should be extended by another five years.

According to law such an application has to be approved by the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), but they rejected the application to extend Leibbrant’s term.

DM was therefore given six months permission to appoint a new Municipal Manager.

A waiver application was then submitted to Cogta, but this too was rejected. And now the municipality is turning towards the courts to have the ministry’s decision overturned.

Mayor Conrad Poole, earlier this year, said all protocols had been followed in establishing that Leibbrandt was the best candidate for the position.

Opposition parties, up in arms about the decision, are expected to take the matter to court, even though many believe this may be tantamount to a waste of taxpayers’ money.

This week Drakenstein Municipality refused to answer direct questions put to them on the matter and the legal action being taken as well as how much this is set to cost the taxpayer.

Poole, however, replied only by saying legal advice is privileged and confidential, and at this stage “any potential litigation against another organ of state will not be discussed in the media.”

He claimed the majority of political parties in council supported a challenge to the minister’s decision, and this will be exercised if required.

Andre Fourie of the Freedom Front+ in Drakenstein said the FF + hoped there was not a hidden agenda behind Cogta’s non-approval of the extension of DM’s current City Manager’s portfolio.

“The question can be asked whether this is not an indirect attempt to apply affirmative action,” he said. “But the Mayor’s handling of the process is also suspect, because he did not play open cards with the opposition from the beginning nor did he involve us in time.”

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