There is much confusion regarding Knysna’s Municipal Manager, Ombali Sebola, who has been in and out of his official position like a jack in the box over the last month. At time of going to press, he was out, with Andiswa Dunywa, the Director of Planning and Economic Development, filling the post of Acting Municipal Manager, but one has to wonder if this is cast in stone?

It all started with a court ruling on 10 May 2024 declaring Sebola’s appointment (by a majority vote in Council on 25 January 2023) null and void. It was the DA, who along with KIM had voted against his appointment, that challenged the Council decision in court, and the presiding judge found that of the three candidates short-listed for the position, Sebola was the least qualified.

On 13 May Sebola appealed against this judgment, but his application was struck off with costs on 28 May.

Whilst he remained in office between these two court rulings, once the negative result of Sebola’s appeal was received by members of Knysna Council, they unanimously resolved at a meeting held on 30 May that he should be instructed to vacate his office with immediate effect.

At the same meeting, Ms Dunywa was appointed Acting Municipal Manager.

There followed a strange and administratively confusing time where, according to sources inside the municipal halls, both the Acting MM and the allegedly ‘null and voided’ MM were reporting for work. It was precariously unclear who could/should authorise documents and make relevant decisions regarding the town’s governance, financial management, and compliance, with fears of legal ramifications further down the line.

At the next Council meeting, held on 6 June, the Executive Mayor submitted a report to the effect that Sebola had filed another application for leave to appeal the latest judgment against his previous appeal, but only subsequent to the Council’s 30 May resolution that he should leave.

The Mayor informed Council that Acting Municipal Manager Dunywa had approached Nandi BulaBula Attorneys for legal advice on the matter, and had been advised that because Sebola had not yet filed his appeal at the time Council had resolved to appoint Ms Dunywa to act, once his appeal had been filed, he was automatically reinstated.

This meant there was no vacancy that could be filled by Ms Dunywa, even in an ‘acting’ capacity. “Mr Sebola is legally the Municipal Manager, and the resolution of Council cannot alter that as it has been overtaken by events which are governed by the Superior Courts Act.” the attorney’s brief stated.

So Sebola was back in Knysna Municipality’s top position, continuing his duties pending the court’s decision on his second appeal. The hearing was set for Tuesday, 11 June, and the Municipal staff waited with bated breath.
But before the court could make the ruling (and shortly before this newspaper’s print deadline!), it was announced that Sebola had officially withdrawn his appeal. The court nevertheless ordered that he pay punitive costs for this second appeal.

On the same day, Ms Dunywa was reinstated as Acting Municipal Manager of Knysna. Still, this state of affairs is reportedly only in place until Thursday, 13 June, when Council meets again. We have been reliably informed that a new Acting Municipal Manager will be appointed at that meeting.