Sithole back to fix City

2019-04-23 16:42
Sibusiso Sithole takes the reins at Msunduzi today. PHOTO: FILE

Sibusiso Sithole takes the reins at Msunduzi today. PHOTO: FILE

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Newly appointed Msunduzi Municipality administrator Sibusiso Sithole is expected to begin the mammoth task of turning the ailing City around on Tuesday.

Following his appointment late last week Sithole (52) and his ministerial intervention team will on Tuesday formally meet Msunduzi’s executive committee during a full council meeting.

This was announced by Lionel Pienaar, Cogta acting deputy director-general, while addressing a council sitting last Thursday.

According to a statement issued by Cogta, Sithole, the former eThekwini city manager, was the first city manager to achieve a clean audit for the province’s sole metro.

“Sithole’s grasp of local government agenda is unrivalled and KZN Cogta believes he is the right person for the tough job at Msunduzi. He recently headed the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa,” Cogta said in a statement.

Meanwhile, prior to Sithole being announced as the new administrator, Thursday’s council meeting descended into a verbal exchange when opposition parties refused to be chaired by a “failing leadership”.

Councillors from opposition parties staged a walk-out during the meeting, stating only the new administrator could take over as chair of the council.

While Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo tried to assure the opposition that decisions taken during the meeting would be ratified by the new administrator, the councillors suggested the meeting should be postponed until the new administrator starts his duty.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said: “Our concern is how can we still deal with the agendas sitting with the leadership who brought us into this situation? The agendas are not at all relevant to the current crisis at Msunduzi. There is no recovery plan. We want a detailed report stating how we arrived at this current situation, that is what we were expecting.”

IFP’s Thinasonke Ntombela said to their knowledge, Msunduzi’s leadership were stripped off their powers the day the City was placed under administration.

“We are not sure whether this sitting is permitted. What if we continue to take decisions that have led to the municipality being placed under administration. How can we sit as an executive alone when there is no one from the ministerial and provincial team,” Ntombela said.

When the sitting resumed, opposition parties only returned to the council chambers after the arrival of Pienaar and Scelo Duma, acting chief director for municipal governance and administration.

Pienaar said Cogta MEC Nomusa-Dube Ncube had appointed an administrator, who subsequently withdrew from that process.

“It then meant that we had to go through a new process and identify a new person. That administrator was appointed on Wednesday and unfortunately due to circumstance he was not available to be here,” he said.

Despite Sithole not being present at the meeting, Pienaar said given the publicity around the matter, it was important that the administrator be introduced in absentia.

He said Sithole will work with a steering committee involving national and provincial departments, including the SA Local Government Association (Salga). The team will report regularly to the MEC, who will report to the provincial executive.

“He will be assisted by a team who are experts in fields of finance, governance and service delivery,” Pienaar said.

Duma said Sithole’s responsibilities entail preparing a recovery plan to articulate solutions to the challenges faced by the municipality and ensuring that the municipality implements a financial system and undertakes measures to cut costs. “He may introduce cost-cutting measures if you don’t have those in place. If you do, they will have to be consolidated or reinforced,” Duma said.

He said Sithole will also become a compulsory signatory for all municipal bank accounts. “That doesn’t mean that he alone becomes the signatory, but transactions cannot happen without his authorisation.”

Duma said Sithole will also see to speeding up pending disciplinary processes against officials, that prosecutions take place swiftly and that basic municipal functions are restored, including basic service delivery of water and lights as well as refuse collection.

Opposition parties welcomed and supported Sithole.

DA’s Majola said a “tough task” lies ahead of Sithole.

“He must finalise the very long-standing disciplinary processes.

“If he can fast track that issue, in particular the one concerning the municipal manager, we will be happy. We want to see a recovery plan that will tell us how, together with his task team, they plan to take out of this deep hole.”

Majola said he was pleased to hear that Sithole would focus on cost cutting measures. “We hope he is going to restore will and put the residents of Msunduzi next to his heart.”

Ntombela said although he welcomes Sithole, the ruling party owed it to Pietermaritzburg residents to reshuffle the City’s leadership.

“What is unfortunate is that he [Sithole] is coming here to work with the same ANC councillors who have shown their inability to run the City,” Ntombela said.

According to Bloomberg.com, Sibusiso Sithole is described as a “turnaround strategist and policy specialist”. He has held key positions, including general manager at Umgeni Water and Xhuma Development Solutions. Sithole holds a B. Proc (Law) Degree from University of Natal, Masters in Education from Manchester University (UK) and an MBA in Corporate Strategy (Unisa).

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