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Exclusive: Former eThekwini city manager Sipho Nzuza blamed for successor Musa Mbhele fiasco

Questions continue to be raised on the legality of eThekwini City Manager Musa Mbhele’s employment. PICTURE: VIVIAN ATTWOOD

Questions continue to be raised on the legality of eThekwini City Manager Musa Mbhele’s employment. PICTURE: VIVIAN ATTWOOD

Published Apr 20, 2023


Durban — EThekwini Municipality’s Human Resources (HR) unit has blamed former city manager Sipho Nzuza for not acting on the report which recommended the current city manager Musa Mbhele be disciplined.

In a letter seen by the Daily News, purportedly coming from HR and said to have been directed to mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, the unit distanced itself from any wrongdoing and blamed Nzuza and Mbhele himself for deceiving his unit during the short-listing.

The HR department said there was no way it would have known about this report because it went directly to the city manager’s office in September 2019 who at the time was Nzuza.

The letter further stated that Nzuza never took any action as the matter was a financial misconduct case that had to be dealt with by the Disciplinary Board which at the time had not been formed.

The letter stated that Sipho Cele took over as acting city manager after Nzuza left but still the board had not been formed.

Nzuza was suspended in 2020 after he appeared in the Durban High Court alongside former mayor Zandile Gumede facing corruption charges in relation to a Durban Solid Waste tender.

Quotes from the letter include, “Sipho (an apparent reference to Cele) left and the report was still in the city manager’s office. After he (an apparent reference to Mbhele) took over he was very aware of the report which is hindsight because it should have then been referred to the mayor as it implicated him directly.”

Also contained in the letter: “The fact that there was a lapse in the disciplinary process as a result of the delays in the formation of the board still does not take away from the fact that there was a pending case against him. He should have declared it, especially that he had had sight of the report as it was in his possession and that he had been questioned on it and provided a statement. There is a standard question that I asked of all candidates during the interview process which is: if they are aware of any pending cases of misconduct against them.

“In his case, he responded negatively and stated there was no case outstanding. A blatant lie because he knew about the case. It was in his office and he had been questioned on it and provided statements. So did he deceive the panel? The answer is YES.”

HR also blamed the City’s Integrity and Investigation Unit (CIIU) for failing to submit the report, saying the CIIU should have submitted it to the mayor who would then take to it to the disciplinary board after his appointment (Kaunda) and the board’s findings were that a criminal case be opened.

“The CIIU is yet to furnish the board with the case number at the next meeting which is scheduled to be on April 28,” a quote in the letter stated.

The Daily News has been reliably informed that in February the disciplinary board recommended that Mbhele be charged criminally but the CIIU was yet to lay charges.

It is expected that as soon as the CIIU submits a case number the city manager would be placed on suspension immediately as it happened to Nzuza.

HR head, Reggie Mkhize confirmed that his unit has written a letter but referred questions to the City’s communications department head Lindiwe Khuzwayo, who said the municipality had nothing to say further from its last response.

Last week Khuzwayo denied that there was a disciplinary recommendation against Mbhele. Nzuza said it would be difficult for him to remember the matter therefore he would not comment.

Opposition parties also weighed in on the matter demanding clarity from Kuanda and the relevant department to come clean on the matter.

The DA and IFP said they still needed to see the report but African Democratic Change (Adec) leader Visvin Reddy called for the suspension of the city manager, saying the recommendation meant his employment was illegal. Reddy said he would write to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and ask for a full investigation as to why the recommendations were not acted upon.

Last week the Daily News reported that Mbhele may have been illegally appointed after revelations that there was a pending disciplinary charge against him when he got the post.

A 2019 report by the CIIU, seen by the Daily News, found Mbhele was guilty of contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act in that he entered into a Memorandum of Agreement that had amended the terms of the contract of a tender without council approval.

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