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eThekwini mayor bypasses council to approve R200,000 funeral for slain councillor

Mayor of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, Mxolisi Kaunda, invoked an emergency law to bypass council’s approval for the funeral of slain councillor Bhekithemba Phungula.


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Durban councillors reportedly got into a heated discussion when it emerged that the city splashed out R200,000 on his funeral without executive council approval, according to a report presented to the exco on Tuesday, local reports said.

Phungula was gunned down at his Umlazi home last month.

The document to exco confirmed the mayor had bypassed exco approval by invoking Rule of Order 28 of the city’s bylaws.

The rule outlines that in cases of “recess and emergencies,” power is delegated to the Municipal Manager to incur expenditures without council approval, but subject to the mayor’s approval.

The funeral, a ‘matter of emergency’

On 29 June, Acting City Manager, Sipho Cele, wrote to Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda seeking approval for Phungula to be accorded a civic funeral because he had been a councillor for nine years.

“In terms of the eThekwini Municipal Council’s calendar of meetings, the next exco meeting is scheduled for 21 July 2020, and it won’t be possible to obtain timeous approval, since the funeral is scheduled for the upcoming weekend of 3-5 July 2020,” wrote Cele.

Kaunda reportedly signed the letter granting approval the same day.

Nicole Graham, Democratic Alliance eThekwini caucus leader, said the premise of invoking Rule of Order 28 was “flawed” since council was not in recess and could have convened for an emergency meeting.

It’s further understood that on 3 July, Deputy Head in the Speaker’s Office, Belinda Mhlongo, wrote to the city’s Head of Parks, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, requesting authority to grant payment for Phungula’s gravesite and to waive the R47,000 for a 10-year lease fee at Stellawood cemeteries.

Mayor Kaunda insisted that the funeral was a “matter of emergency.”

“Funerals are currently limited to 50 people. How does a 50-person funeral cost R200,000?” asked Graham.

Also read: Officials in eThekwini allegedly planning ‘billion-rand bonus fund’ for staff