Durban leaders failed

2012-07-07 09:30

Just more than a month ago, I was hopeful proper action would be taken against those who raid the eThekwini Municipality’s coffers.

The Manase Commission’s report indicated how to improve the way the city does business, and how to get rid of dodgy officials and councillors. But I was sceptical of how far the action would go.

Thus far, the councillors identified by the report as doing business with the city – among them executive committee members responsible for implementing Manase – face no substantial sanction for abusing the system, based at least in part on the push by Mayor James Nxumalo that their transgressions be forgiven as ignorance or stupidity.

It’s hard to understand how people who have been in office for up to a decade and on whose training and development significant amounts of taxpayers’ money have been spent, cannot know that it is wrong to do business with the council on which they serve.

They seem to know how to use the system to ensure their allowances are paid and their pensions are up to date.

The city has confirmed that infrastructure and procurement head Derek Naidoo, a former Robben Islander turned lawyer turned bureaucrat, will not have his contract renewed beyond June 30.

Fair enough. But Naidoo will still be paid his R1.6 million yearly salary for the next six months.

Bheki Mkhize, the deputy city manager responsible for safety and security, will also go at month end, but with an additional two months’ salary (his annual take home is around R1.4 million). Not bad for managers fired amid findings of corruption and mismanagement.

There are indications that treasury boss Krish Kumar, IT head Jacqui Subban, Naidoo’s deputy Thembinkosi Shezi, senior procurement official Andre Pietersen, and housing deputy head Yunus Saccoor will all face disciplinary action.

But if the examples of Naidoo and Mkhize are anything to go by, this means a golden handshake and a farewell hug rather than civil action or criminal charges.

Municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe, however, lorded over all this abuse and slipped into the sunset at the beginning of the year when the city refused to renew his contract. His successor S’bu Sithole promised Sutcliffe would face the full wrath of the law, but the silence since has been rather deafening.

Now we hear Sutcliffe is to sue Sithole and the city over the selective release of parts of Manase and his successor’s comments about the culpability of Sutcliffe and some of his managers for the city’s losses.

This slap-on-the-wrist approach to cleaning up the city is a message to the crony class that their actions will be tolerated as long as they keep their dodgy deals sub rosa.

So, too, is the protection given to city officials who fail to provide reports to the city’s ethics committee and standing committee on public accounts, both tasked with making sure the financial rules are followed.

The city’s leaders are failing those who voted and believed they were serious when they spoke about a better life for all.

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