DBN city boss splits empire

2013-08-28 00:00

DURBAN’S city manager Sbu Sithole yesterday split what was once regarded as an empire in the eThekwini metro.

Sithole tabled a proposal at an executive council (Exco) meeting to allow the crucial human settlement and infrastructure department to be divided and headed by two deputy city managers.

The proposal was later unanimously voted for by the majority ANC executive council.

The HSI department is regarded as the heartbeat of the city and at least R4,8 billion of the city’s R6 billion capital budget is allocated for its work.

The vacant posts, which carry an annual salary of between R1,6 and R1,8 million, are expected to be advertised soon. The decision to split the powerful department is being viewed with suspicion by the city’s opposition parties.

The NFP, DA and MF are concerned that the splitting is unnecessary and that the ANC-led municipality is creating another deputy city manager post so the party can appoint a cadre in the position.

They accused the ANC in eThekwini of using ratepayers’ money to ensure those responsible for gathering votes ahead of the 2014 elections were being rewarded.

Metro spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng dismissed the concerns as being premature, saying the city’s aim was to speed up service delivery.

“The city manager made it clear in today’s Exco meeting that there are no financial implications with the split. Let’s wait for the employment processes to be completed before making unfounded allegations on the plan,” he said.

The department has been a bugbear for the municipality. Derek Naidoo, who was responsible for infrastructure and procurement, was accused of irregular expenditure by the Manase report, which recommended that disciplinary action be taken against him.

His contract was terminated in 2012, and he continues to maintain his innocence.

The municipality’s attempt to fill Naidoo’s post was dealt a huge blow when they appointed Silindokuhle Hadebe, only to find that he was under suspension by the Ekurhuleni Municipality, on suspicion of tender fraud.

Yesterday, Sithole said a thorough review of the six core departments showed there was a need to amend the organisational structure of the municipality.

“On review, it has been established that the human settlements and infrastructure cluster is far too cumbersome to be led by a single individual.

“The feasibility of splitting the department into two was then researched and found to be plausible,” Sithole said.

He said it became essential to review the whole top management structure to avoid a situation where the structure would be seen as too heavy on top.

Sithole said it was found that although the programme management office was essential in terms of ensuring systematic management of projects within time, scope, budget and quality, “this does not need to be necessarily packaged at the level of a deputy city manager”.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango questioned reasons for the move.

“This has nothing to do with the service delivery, but aimed at creating jobs for comrades. The move is not an administrative, but a political one,” he said.

He questioned the timing of deciding to split such a powerful and influential department, and that it would not have much impact on better service delivery.

NFP councillor and Exco member Bongiwe Mtshali said the creation of the new deputy city manager post was aimed at benefiting certain individuals within the ruling party.

The MF’s Patrick Pillay said the splitting of the cluster would mean a lot of cost implications to the city. “The proposal talks of fast-tracking service delivery, but more ratepayer money will be needed to pay them when the posts are filled,” he said.

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