Durban - The eThekwini Municipality’s controversial head of health, Dr Nomakhosi Gxagxisa, was back at work this week after she was apparently cleared of wrongdoing.
City spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, would not confirm this, saying it was an internal matter.
All he would say was that her suspension had not been officially lifted.
But Musa Gumede, the deputy city manager responsible for health services, said in an SMS on Wednesday: “The investigation on Dr Gxagxisa has been completed and the report is now with the city manager for him to apply his mind on whether to institute disciplinary action against her or not. Further information would be made available when he (city manager Sibusiso Sithole) has gone through the report.”
Asked whether Gxagxisa was back at work, Gumede sent a brief response, saying: “Not officially”.
Gxagxisa had been fined R50 000 by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) for practising without council registration, and was later suspended by the city as it probed claims that she had brought the municipality into disrepute.
On Wednesday, HPCSA spokeswoman, Bertha Peters-Scheepers, confirmed that Gxagxisa was now registered as a non-clinical medical practitioner.
She said Gxagxisa had been paying her fines by monthly installments.
“Dr Gxagxisa has paid three of the five installments, with the fourth and fifth payments due in December and January,” Peters-Scheepers said.
While Gxagxisa could not be reached on the phone on Tuesday, several sources confirmed that she was, indeed, back at work. When the Daily News phoned her office, she was reported to be in a meeting.
A source close to the health unit said Gxagxisa’s comeback was announced internally three weeks ago.
Another source in the city said the investigator probing the claims against Gxagxisa had recommended that she be reinstated because she had not brought the municipality into disrepute.
Gxagxisa was suspended in September, after which an internal investigation was launched into her conduct.
In August last year, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) lodged a complaint against Gxagxisa with the HPCSA for investigation.
Gxagxisa was subsequently found guilty on two counts, the first being that between June 1992 and November 2011 she practiced as a medical practitioner while not registered with the council.
She was also found guilty of bringing the profession into disrepute during that period for purporting to be a registered medical practitioner.
But Gxagxisa failed to pay the R20 000 admission of guilt fine issued by the HPCSA in January, blaming this later on miscommunication involving her bank.
By the time she realised there was a problem more charges were added and Gxagxisa was later fined R50 000 and slapped with a two-year suspension, suspended for five years, by the council.
The council had also wanted to probe any wrongdoing on Gxagxisa’s part in relation to the employment of the deputy head of health services after an unsuccessful candidate became aggrieved.
Gxagxisa had offered the aggrieved candidate another deputy head position, which had been vacant, but some saw this as being irregular.
Gxagxisa allegedly claimed that she had done this to avoid a prolonged arbitration process and that in doing so she had had the blessing of her manager, Gumede.
The provincial secretary of Samwu, Jaycee Ncanana, said the union had also been made aware of Gxagxisa’s return to work by some of its members. “We’re not happy because we feel that the employer has not done enough (in probing the allegations against Gxagxisa),” he said.
Ncanana said the union would not take this lying down. “This decision to lift the suspension was not even communicated formally to us as the union. But to everyone’s surprise she is back at work. We would make sure that this matter is revived and we might even request that the investigation is handled by neutral people this next time.”
The DA’s leader in eThekwini, Zwakele Mncwango, said his party had already written to city officials seeking a full record on the Gxagxisa matter.
The apparent lifting of her suspension, however, also caught some councillors unawares, but IFP caucus leader, Mdu Nkosi, said he was not surprised.
Mncwango said after reading the report he would determine what action to take next
“We do not have strong leadership in this city and all that this proves is that many things are being swept under the carpet,” he said.
“Even with the Manase report, there has not been any follow-up; so people are being encouraged to act with impunity.”
Minority Front councillor Patrick Pillay, a council executive committee member, said he was not aware that Gxagxisa was back at work.
Pillay said committee members had not been given any updates on the investigation and were surprised that she had returned to work without their knowledge. “If she is back, the city manager must then inform us all of the reasons for her return,” he said.
Pillay said ratepayers and councillors needed to get full details on the findings of the investigation against Gxagxisa.
“She can’t just be brought back quietly without any reasons given. We deserve to know why.”