The title song of the local South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) choir was muted mid-chorus this week when the acting municipal manager of the Greater Tzaneen Municipality’s term was extended for another three months.

The union proclaimed earlier this month that Alec Nkuna would only be appointed municipal manager on their death beds. Much to their disappointment his term was extended during a special council sitting at the Lenyenye Community Hall on Wednesday afternoon. SAMWU could not be reached for comment.

It was during the last meeting of the SAMWU workers that their chairperson told the leadership of the ANC in Tzaneen, led by the current mayor Gerson Molapisane, that they do want Alec Nkuna retained. It was during this address that Molapisane’s car was stolen and later found in Lenyenye.

Nkuna, who worked for the Greater Letaba Municipality (GLM) and served as a member of security arrangements in the ANC through the now defunct Mkhondo We Sizwe, entered the GTM in 2018 where various directors were appointed including the former municipal manager, Thapelo Matlala. Nkuna was appointed as the director for community services after the departure of Obby Mkhombo.

Though it was not made public at the time, Nkuna had run-ins with unions on more than one occasion hence when he was appointed as the acting municipal manager after Matlala resigned in September, SAMWU objected. This is the same union who regularly rioted at the gates of the White House to have Matlala removed – among their objections was that he was “too bossy” and they wanted someone from Tzaneen to be appointed. Ironically, Nkuna is from Tzaneen, and they also do not want him in office.

Fortunately, the appointment of the municipal manger is the responsibility of council, and not the unions. In line with the Systems Act, Act 32 of 2000, directors and municipal managers are categorised as section 57 employees and therefore their terms in office expire after five years but can be renewed by council.

Wednesday’s special council sitting was not held in the council chambers because Covid-19 regulations made it impossible to abide by social distancing. The newly appointed mayor arrived in his own personal vehicle whilst the newly appointed Speaker of the council, Sanie Tiba, was chauffeured in. She arrived 18 minutes late.