Mahlaba to face inquiry

2016-07-01 12:15
The red-brick road around the City Hall.

The red-brick road around the City Hall. (Jonathan Burton)

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Pietermaritzburg - A labour court judge has dismissed an application to set aside the recent suspension of Msunduzi’s Internal Audit Unit head, Petrus Mahlaba.

On Thursday, Mahlaba’s attorney Richard Stretch said they were still considering whether to appeal the judgment which was handed down in the Labour Court in Durban on Wednesday. He said he will consult with Mahlaba next week to decide.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda also said the city would not discuss Mahlaba’s case in a “public space” as he is still employed by council.

Labour Court Judge Benita Whitcher said in her written judgment that although there were a number of aspects in the case which brought into question the fairness of Mahlaba’s suspension, she found there was no merit in the legal challenge against it.

Concerning the submission that then acting municipal manager Boniwe Zulu had suspended Mahlaba for “ulterior purposes”, Judge Whitcher said that Mahlaba had failed to provide a sufficient evidentiary basis for such a “profound finding”.

She said the fact that Mahlaba’s audit team had investigated Zulu, together with the fact that his suspension (on an unrelated matter) followed one month after her appointment as acting municipal manager was “questionable but not sufficient” for her to find that Zulu had used her powers for ulterior purposes.

She said Mahlaba’s letter of suspension had repeatedly stated that Morar Incorporated’s investigative team had laid the complaint against Mahlaba and pursued it.

Regarding the issue of a subpoena issued for Mahlaba to produce certain documents, which the court found he had no right to ignore, the judge said it was evident from letters exchanged between Mahlaba and Zulu that the municipality had resolved to co-operate with the investigation in that matter and had instructed Mahlaba to also co-operate. This took the matter beyond the issue of a subpoena and transformed it into one involving an “instruction from an employer to an employee to assist and co-operate with the investigators”.

It is believed Mahlaba was ­suspended for allegedly failing to ­provide information to officials of the Department of Co-operative ­Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) for their investigation into ­irregularities at Msunduzi. He was suspended at the beginning of April after he was allegedly subjected to bullying tactics by council officials, which resulted in him reporting an incident of intimidation at Alexandra Road police station.

Deputy municipal manager Dr Ray Ngcobo, through the instruction of then acting municipal manager Boniwe Zulu, had effected Mahlaba’s suspension. Ngcobo and Zulu are both the subject of investigations by the city’s Internal Audit team, which was headed by Mahlaba before his suspension.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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