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Nokuthula Zondani, the former municipal manager of Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality who is out on R5,000 bail, made a short appearance in East London Magistrate Court on Tuesday. Zondani was arrested by the Hawks on the 23rd of August on allegations of contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act when she authorised the doubling of a tender’s value, from R1.2-million to R2.4-million, without consulting the council.

Last month, Elitsha reported that Zondani’s appointment as a director of community services had caused widespread anger among Amathole District Municipality (ADM) opposition parties and activist groups who variously described her appointment as a violation of local government regulations and as a compromise on clean government and service delivery. Following a disciplinary inquiry, they believed, Ms Zondani should be dismissed for gross misconduct for failure to disclose the pending criminal charges against her.  The municipality’s response at the time was that they were not aware of any pending case at the time of her employment and that Zondani had been procedurally vetted.

Learning of her trial has not dissuaded the ADM from defending her appointment, insisting that there is no legal basis for Ms Zondani not to continue with her employment at this stage. “Our [the municipality’s] position regarding why she was employed still applies. ADM will continue to monitor the progress of her case and will provide comment should the circumstances so require,” said Nonceba Madikizela, the spokesperson for the municipality.

Zondani’s lawyer, Mxolisi Ntsika, dismissed concerns about Zondani’s continued employment in Eastern Cape municipalities arguing that his client is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. The case has been remanded to 6 December.