RATEPAYERS in Nelson Mandela Bay forked out about R25000 for mayor Zanoxolo Wayile and his wife, Fezeka, to have a 10-day getaway at a four-star luxury hotel in Durban over the festive season.
Municipal invoices leaked to The Herald this week showed the Bay’s first couple spent more than a week in December-January at the Protea Umhlanga Ridge Hotel, with flights, accommodation, food and drinks paid for by the metro at a time when it was barely recovering from a financial crisis.
Wayile’s spokesman, Luncedo Njezula, insisted, however, that the mayor had been on official business – but would not say what that business was.
The documents show Fezeka flew from Port Elizabeth to Durban on December 27 and spent the night at the hotel, while Wayile flew from East London the next day to join her.
Their hotel bill – including breakfast, dinner and beverages for the duration of the holiday – totalled about R17600, while their return flights cost about R7500.
"The trip referred to herein was undertaken in pursuance of government business,” Njezula said.
"For the record, since assuming office in 2009, the executive mayor has never taken any vacations during the December- January period.
"The executive mayor’s travel privileges are clearly articulated in the Mayoral Handbook Guidelines as promulgated by Salga [South African Local Government Association].
"Under section 6, sub-section 6.1, of the handbook, which deals with travel privileges, it is stated: ‘Mayors and their spouses are entitled to unlimited air travel [business class] at the expense of the municipality’ [when on official journeys].
"It is worth noting that mayor Wayile took a decision to forgo business-class air travel and only flies economy class,” he said.
"Sub-section 6.4 [6.4.1] reads: ‘Mayors are entitled to subsistence at municipal expense in any hotel or hostelry if they fulfil official functions away from their ordinary places of residence.
"[Sub-section] 6.4.2 states that ‘the spouses of mayors are entitled to subsistence at municipal expense in any hotel or hostelry if they perform official duties away from their ordinary places of residence in their capacity as spouses of mayors’.”
However, Njezula refused to explain what official business the mayor was on at the time.
ANC regional secretary Zandisile Qupe said yesterday the trip was "unfortunate”.
"He is the executive mayor, he is the one person who was mostly determined to root out corruption in the metro,” Qupe said.
"His actions made him appear above reproach – that is the stance he had during the Kabuso report when he sent it to state law-enforcement agencies.”
The ANC in the metro is furious with Wayile for approving a decision to have the Hawks investigate the Kabuso report, which fingers party chairman Nceba Faku in dodgy land deals with prominent businessmen when he was mayor.
The party has repeatedly called for Wayile to be fired, claiming he "does not follow instructions” from the regional leadership.
"He must face the music,” Qupe said. "Let the processes of government take place ... [If he has done anything wrong] let it be reported to state law-enforcement agencies.
"I think he will take it as a man as he has been the champion of clean governance in the municipality.”
UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani also called for an investigation into the allegations.
"When the head of an institution is involved in fruitless expenditure, that needs to be investigated and, if it is true, the law should take its course.”
Bobani said his party would raise the matter with Wayile in council and, if it was found to be true, would call for him to be axed.
DA caucus leader Leon de Villiers said: "If that is true, it would surprise me as the mayor does not strike me as someone who would do that.
"So far he has shown a very good example and shown willingness to lead a clean municipality.
"This is the first time I am hearing about this and if it is ... true, I would be very disappointed.”