Controversial former city manager, Michael Sutcliffe, has torn into his successor, accusing him of audacity in celebrating Durban’s recent national award for housing progress while carrying out a witchhunt against the people responsible for it.
He also signalled on Friday that he was pressing on with the lawsuit against city manager S’bu Sithole, and demanded a public apology for his treatment over a report by auditors Manase and Associates.
He questioned the present administration’s jubilation at winning the Govan Mbeki Human Settlements Award, which inspired Durban Mayor James Nxumalo to say last week: “This shows that good things are happening in eThekwini.”
This happened while it pursued those who had helped win it, he noted.
Sutcliffe, on a break at home from work contracts abroad, was addressing a media briefing for the first time since damning allegations were made against top officials in the wake of the Manase probe into metro irregularities – the full findings of which have yet to be released.
Sutcliffe has consistently rejected the allegations against him and said papers would be served on Sithole within two weeks. He is suing his successor for about R8 million, claiming damage to his reputation, and loss of future earnings, as a result of claims Sithole had made about him.
The Daily News first disclosed news of the suit on March 15.
Taking it further, Sutcliffe called on Sithole to issue an unreserved apology in the media where Sithole had uttered the claims. “Over the past few months I have been trying to secure my rights in terms of the damage done to my reputation, and that of colleagues of mine, resulting from the reckless release of the Manase report’s findings without first affording us an opportunity to be heard or to provide documentary evidence.
“I have started proceedings to claim significant damages against... Sibusiso Sithole who has acted recklessly and has far exceeded any authority he had and made claims in the media that council had mandated him to lay criminal charges against me and claim monies back from me,” Sutcliffe said.
Responding to the Manase findings, Sutcliffe said he had read the full report, given to him after he threatened court action over its release. He said he drew the following conclusions after studying the report with his lawyers:
l It showed no evidence of fraud or corruption in eThekwini; except for that which was being dealt with at the time;
l Manase investigators did not investigate many matters that were brought to their attention and in many cases drew their own conclusions without obtaining relevant material;
l and in many instances Manase investigators specifically suggested that their findings be put to senior managers before any charges were made, yet the findings were published as facts by MEC Nomusa Dube and Sithole.
A grim summary of the Manase findings was released to the media earlier this year as top eThekwini officials held press briefings to name individuals they said were implicated.
These included Sutcliffe, former head of Housing, Cogi Pather, deputy city manager, Procurement and Infrastructure, Derek Naidoo, and the city treasurer, Krish Kumar.
But all cried foul, saying they had not even seen the report to be able to defend themselves.
Pather has since left the council, Naidoo has been advised that his contract would be terminated this month, and Kumar faces internal disciplinary charges.
Sithole said previously he would lay charges against Sutcliffe to recover R1.1m in lost revenue to the city as a result of his failure to report fraud and corruption cited in the Manase findings.
Sutcliffe has again dismissed this: “The allegations that I am guilty of derogation of my duties and as a result the city would take action to recover an amount of R1.1m from me and to institute possible criminal prosecution are completely unfounded.
“The Manase investigation does not contain a recommendation that I be prosecuted, nor does it suggest or advocate that the monies allegedly lost to the municipality should be recovered from me personally,” he said.
He added that those named had suffered greatly in the way the Manase issue had been dealt with both by the media and others.
“We will for ever be confronted with claims of corruption and fraud and yet Manase made no findings against any of us in this regard. In fact we were the ones who showed them some of the work we had done to rid the city of fraud and corruption.”
Sithole has said he would release the full Manase report to councillors on eThekwini’s executive committee later this month.