Durban - Political parties have welcomed the guilty finding against Gideon Phungula, the head of eThekwini Municipality’s legal and compliance unit, on charges of hate speech, racism and gross dishonesty.

Phungula was embroiled in a controversy in September after a phone recording of him referring to city treasurer Krish Kumar using the C-word was leaked. The matter was investigated by the city’s Investigations and Integrity Unit after a complaint was made.

According to the Daily News’ sister paper, the Sunday Tribune, Phungula was found guilty of hate speech, racism and gross dishonesty in a disciplinary hearing last week. His fate will be known this week.

DA caucus leader Nicole Graham welcomed the finding.

“It is a big ruling. We cannot have people who behave like that especially in a position that requires a high degree of moral fibre.”

She said they hoped that this would serve as a lesson that people should not look down on each other based on race.

The Daily News reported in September that the DA had opened a case with the South African Human Rights Commission.

In the recording, Phungula is said to refer to “corrupt c*****s” and “c*****s” five times. He allegedly did this while explaining a strategy that was to be used to retain an employee who had been suspended for alleged corrupt activities. Phungula is said to have claimed that although he was highly qualified, politics played a role in his appointment.

IFP executive committee member Mdu Nkosi said the guilty finding raised questions of the panel that chose him as the head of the legal department. He said the city lost many of the legal battles it was involved in.

“It is sad that a person who has barely finished a year at work is already facing charges,” he said.

Nkosi added that this should also be a lesson to officials that they should treat each other with respect. Having heard the transcript of the conversation, he said he would be surprised if Phungula was let off the hook.

Kumar said he would not comment on the matter and was not aware of the finding. He said he had no personal issues with Phungula and that they had a cordial relationship.

Kumar said such incidents would crop up and were part of a transforming society. Such issues needed to be addressed. South Africans needed to look within themselves to see how they were contributing to building a better society, he said.

Mthunzi Gumede, the spokesperson of eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, said they could not comment on the matter until the legal process had been completed.

Phungula did not respond to calls and messages sent to him.

Daily News