Broke Bongi gets new Local Govt job

2009-04-13 00:00

Ousted uMgungundlovu District mayor Bongi Sithole, who has had her Mercedes Benz and household goods re-possessed to cover a debt to a Durban fashion boutique, may soon be able to settle her outstanding bills — if the IFP is to be believed.

According to the IFP, Sithole has landed a “plush” job in the KwaZulu-Natal Local Government Department. She has been appointed manager in charge of the Directorate for Dispute Resolution, at a salary of R620 000 per annum.

IFP spokesman for Local Government Peter Smith says the former mayor — who was ousted last year after her own party passed a vote of no confidence in her — has been given a lifeline by Local Government MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu. Smith said his party was reliably informed that the process of Sithole’s appointment was “riddled with irregularities”.

He added that Sithole was appointed at the end of March in a hurry to fill vacancies across the provincial government before the election. “Her job was never advertised and was apparently created for her by the head of department, Gabi Gumbi-Masilela,” said Smith.

“The irony is that Sithole, who was ousted under a cloud from the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, will, as dispute resolution manager, oversee dispute resolution between municipalities and the department. This is a textbook example of a conflict of interest,” said Smith.

Department spokesman Lennox Mabaso has criticised the IFP, calling its allegations against Sithole and the department a fabrication and a measure of desperate electioneering by the party.

Mabaso said the job was advertised in the media and Sithole applied. As he was not at the office, he was unable to list the publications the advert appeared in.

“She met the qualifications as she has a degree. She also has a wealth of experience. In her position as district mayor, she did a lot of work with traditional communities and leaders, and helped smooth negotiations when the functions between traditional leaders and local government was discussed,” he said.

Mabaso said Sithole was the best candidate in a process that was open and transparent.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, a source who is familiar with Bongi Sithole’s work experience, but asked not to be named, expressed shock at her appointment to the high-earning position.

“She does not have any experience in conflict resolution on that scale. She’s been a councillor since she was at university. It’s unbelievable,” he said.

The source said he had no doubt that there are better qualified people with more relevant experience who would have been better suited for the position.

“This is blatant cronyism. It’s just not on.”

On the department’s website, on the executive committee page under the heading traditional affairs, the position, manager: dispute resolution, is still listed as vacant.

According to the department’s organogram on the website, the incumbent should manage and resolve traditional leadership and boundary disputes.

The areas of responsibility would include “facilitating dialogue with disputing parties; conducting research on the origin and background of traditional leadership dispute; determining the legitimacy of boundary disputes filed by various clans; and analysing available data to ensure sound discussions are made in resolving disputes”.

Attempts to contact Sithole yesterday were unsuccessful.

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