Matlala sitting in his office chair behind his desk
The Municipal Manager who stuck to his guns and fought to have a tender overturned which saved the ratepayers in his municipality R38 million. Thapelo Matlala's guts and determination paid off last week. Photo: Joe Dreyer

The Greater Tzaneen municipality, last week, won their high court appeal to have two controversial multi-million roads tenders set aside. The Polokwane High Court ruled in favour of the GTM and declared the tenders for the construction of the Mulati and Codesa Roads unlawful. The GTM’s municipal manager, Thapelo Matlala, approached the court to have the R30 million tender awarded to Tshiamiso Trading 135 in 2018, set aside after he discovered discrepancies with Tshiamiso’s bid submission.

The presiding judge in the matter, Judge George Phatudi, said in his ruling that the awarding of the tenders to Tshiamiso Trading was unlawful and unconstitutional, and set aside the agreements concluded between the two parties. “The company is entitled to claim the actual expenses incurred, excluding any profits that it actually made in executing its obligations in terms of the two tenders,” Phatudi said. He further stated that the municipality was entitled to recover an amount from the company that exceeds the actual expenses of both tenders, and Tshiamiso was ordered to pay the legal costs.

This latest judgement will hopefully end a two-year long battle which saw concerted efforts by elements and individuals within the municipality, to have Matlala removed from the municipal manager’s chair. Matlala overturned the decision to award a roads tender to Tshiamiso after he discovered that the contractor had misrepresented on its bill of quantities in order to secure the tenders. The project was cancelled and Matlala saved the GTM R38 million which Tshiamiso had demanded above the tendered and agreed upon amount. Following this decision, was an almost immediate suspension, a failed assassination attempt on Matlala in the council chambers, and another suspension.

Matlala returned to work and took the matter to the Labour court, where he won his case, and the suspension was set aside. To this day, there is still no clarity as to what exactly Matlala did to warrant the suspension, nor has there been any explanation as to what the council was supposedly investigating regarding his decision on the two tenders. Surviving these blatant attempts to remove him from office, Matlala stuck to his guns and gave instructions for a High Court application to be launched on the 19th of August 2019 in the Limpopo Division, Polokwane under case number 5267/2019. On Thursday, the 28th of January 2021, his diligence bore fruit.