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Durban - The former head of geographic information and policy at the eThekwini Municipality, Jacqui Subban, would swear at staff and “act like a thug” during staff meetings to get her way.
“She’d say things like I am a bruin ou (coloured), I am a main ou (top person). That is how she would speak. She would often use the f-word on me. She would act like a thug,” Pragasen Govender, the former deputy head of IT in Subban’s department, told the Labour Court on Thursday.
He was testifying about secret recordings he’d made of conversations he had with Subban during which she swore and threatened to fire him.
Govender also secretly recorded conversations with former city manager Mike Sutcliffe, and eThekwini lawyer, Vuyokazi Ngwenya, who prosecuted him during his disciplinary hearings.
Govender was fired from the municipality in June 2010 on what he claims were fabricated charges after he tried to blow the whistle on corruption and irregular contracts in the city.
He was found guilty of all six charges brought against him by the municipality.
He has taken the municipality to court to get his job back.
He claims he was unfairly dismissed after uncovering irregular payments of R2.6m made to a service provider, Dimension Data. The irregular payments, he said, had been approved by Subban, whom he accuses of leading the charge to dismiss him. Some of the allegations by Govender are in the Manase Report into fraud and corruption in the city released earlier this year.
One recording Govender made was of a January 2010 meeting he had with Ngwenya during an adjournment of his disciplinary hearing.
The municipality’s advocate, Joe Nxusani, tried to have the recordings thrown out of the proceedings yesterday as it was an “off the record discussion with an opponent”. But Labour Court Judge Hamilton Cele provisionally allowed the recordings as evidence.
In the recordings, transcribed for the court, Ngwenya – who resigned from the council this month – tells Govender two of the charges against him have “already fallen away”; the rest are “shaky”.
“But there is no way I’m going to admit that. In my closing arguments I’m still going to say I have a case and when we do mitigation, depending on what he says (the presiding officer) I am still going to say ‘I have a case and I think dismissal is an appropriate sanction’. I’m telling you now that’s what I’m going to say…”
Govender testified that during that meeting with Ngwenya, she admitted that she left out crucial minutes of meetings to falsely show that he did not attend work meetings when he in fact had.
In the recordings, Ngwenya says: “Those meetings, from page 40 to 48, are extracts. Why did I bring extracts and not the full meeting minutes? That should tell you something.”
Govender said he had instructed his attorney to file a complaint against Ngwenya with the Law Society for her unethical conduct.
“They brought nine pages of minutes to show I was absent when in fact I was present at those meetings, and they tampered with original documents to get me dismissed,” he said.
Asked why he began recording meetings with officials, Govender said he could no longer sit back while rules governing the municipality were openly being flouted. “This corruption was growing at a fast rate under Subban, with the consent of Mike Sutcliffe (then city manager ).”