Letter reveals municipal row

2016-06-14 12:58
The red-brick road around the City Hall.

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

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Pietermaritzburg - A letter from the former acting municipal ­manager to the Speaker of the Msunduzi council has revealed the extent to which the relationship between some members of management and senior council members has soured.

The letter, which was leaked to The Witness this week, is dated May 3 and was sent by Boniwe Zulu, during her tenure as acting municipal manager, to Speaker Babu Baijoo.

In the letter, Zulu accuses Baijoo of interfering in administration and not serving the council’s best interest. This followed numerous articles published in The Witness which she deemed were a “distorted version of events”. The letter followed Zulu’s attempt to halt the disciplinary proceedings against her colleague Dr Ray Ngcobo — the deputy municipal manager for economic development, who also acted as municipal manager at times — which was taking place during April. According to the letter, Baijoo, as Speaker of the council, had written to the initiator of the disciplinary inquiry, Sanele ­Zondi, a director at law firm Mdledle Incorporated, asking him to continue with the inquiry despite Zulu’s attempt to have the matter postponed. In the letter, Zulu tells Baijoo that the Code of Conduct states that “councillors may not interfere in the management or administration of any department … unless mandated by the council”.

She then threatens Baijoo, telling him that failure to adhere to the code may “ultimately lead to ­suspension or removal from office”.

Baijoo then sought clarity on whether he had acted out of his jurisdiction, sending an e-mail to the South African Local Government Association (Salga).

Salga’s Kishore Harie advised Baijoo that Zulu “did not have the legal competence or power to suspend the disciplinary proceedings”.

In April, Zulu had written to Zondi, asking for the disciplinary processes to be adjourned. She said she had received a letter from Ngcobo’s ­attorneys that complained of a ­“perceived lack of fairness of the ­disciplinary process and the conduct of the ­disciplinary hearing”. A day after receiving the letter, Zondi responded with his own e-mail, saying he was “hugely disappointed, shocked and alarmed” by ­Zulu’s actions, which he deemed unlawful.

In his e-mail to Baijoo, Harie said Zulu was “obliged” to bring the allegations of unfair conduct in Ngcobo’s case to the attention of the council.

Harie said Zulu had failed to raise the matter in a council meeting and her actions could be raised as “mitigating circumstances”.

When contacted, Baijoo said he could not comment since the matter was never tabled at council.

Zulu told The Witness yesterday she was “exhausted” at the continuous enquiries from Witness on internal matters. After questioning the journalist as to who leaked the documents to The Witness, Zulu said the questions should be answered by the source, since “they seem to know more”. “Go to your contacts and ask them to answer your questions. If they can give you internal letters, then they must answer to you.”

Zulu also told the journalist to rather apply for a job at the municipality, as “all internal matters come to you anyway”. She refused to answer any of the ­questions posed to her.

Zulu had again stepped in as acting municipal ­manager last week, after scathing allegations surfaced about the new acting municipal manager’s past.

Zulu was asked to hold the fort last Thursday and Friday, after news reports unveiled a cloud of ­allegations against the newly appointed acting ­municipal manager, Sizwe Hadebe.

The council appointed Hadebe last Monday on a three-month contract after the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Department recommended him for the post. This came after the city refused to extend Zulu’s stay as acting manager and she returned to her original portfolio of deputy municipal manager for community services.

The allegations against Hadebe include that he had changed his name last year after being suspended over a number of tender irregularities in Gauteng and Ekhurhuleni municipalities. His original name was Adolph Slindokuhle Hadebe.

It is believed Hadebe left Zulu in charge last week as he was busy moving to Pietermaritzburg to take up office.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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