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Exclusive: Was eThekwini city manager appointed illegally?

eThekwini City manager Musa Mbhele’s employment could be cancelled following the revelations that he was hired while facing disciplinary action.PICTURE: GCINA NDWALANE

eThekwini City manager Musa Mbhele’s employment could be cancelled following the revelations that he was hired while facing disciplinary action.PICTURE: GCINA NDWALANE

Published Apr 17, 2023


Durban — EThekwini Municipality manager Musa Mbhele may have been illegally appointed after revelations that there was a pending disciplinary charge against him when he got the post.

A report compiled by the City Integrity and Investigations Unit (CIIU) in 2019, seen by the Daily News, found that Mbhele was guilty of contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) Section 116(3) in that he entered into a Memorandum of Agreement that had amended the terms of the contract of a tender without council approval.

According to the report, for him to amend the terms of the contract agreement, he should have tabled the reasons before the council as required in terms of the MFMA’s Section 116(3) which did not happen.

He allegedly inserted a clause that the contract was renewable which, according to the report, was not part of the tender document.

The amendment bound the municipality to renew the service provider’s contract for another three years when it expired in 2016.

The report, therefore, recommended disciplinary proceedings against him.

It is alleged that these had not been effected when he was appointed as city manager last year.

The allegations against Mbhele date back to 2013 when he was the head of Development Planning, Environment, and Management. He and the unit official responsible for Advertising Services allegedly struck a deal with the service provider who was bidding to manage the city’s street pole advertising in 2013 that if the two ensured that he got the tender he would pay them R3 million.

During this time Mbhele was said to have demolished his house in Cowies Hill near Pinetown and rebuilt it, allegedly with the money he had received from the service provider.

It was alleged that the service provider paid Mbhele R50 000 a month for the duration of the contract.

According to the official’s evidence to the investigators, the agreement was that the service provider would transfer money to the official and then forward it to Mbhele.

The report said the official indeed proved that he made payments to Mbhele. In Mbhele’s presentation, he agreed that he received payments from the official but denied that it was a payment from the service provider.

He stated it was a loan from the official to renovate his house – he saw nothing wrong to ask for a loan from colleagues and friends if he ran short of cash. On how he funded the renovations to his house, Mbhele told the investigators that he used money from selling his flat in Morningside and savings from his previous work.

He said he was earning more than R2 million a year in the City and was able to finance the renovations.

The report said that when the investigating team asked for financial statements to prove that he used his savings, he refused to give bank statements from 2013 to 2015, which the team had requested. Instead, he gave the team six bank statements only which contained nothing to prove that he did anything wrong. The report said since there was no criminal case laid against him with the SAPS, the investigating team could not lawfully obtain the bank statements it had requested.

The panel that recommended Mbhele be employed as city manager included then deputy mayor Philani Mavundla, DA caucus leader Thabani Mthethwa and Executive Committee member, councillor Zama Sokhabase, who represented the ANC.

Mthethwa said no report was presented to the panel, hence it recommended him to the council for approval.

Asked what his party intended to do now that there was such a report, Mthethwa said he was unable to talk about a report he did not have.

Mavundla did not respond to the message sent to him which he appeared to have read. Sokhabase said the panel’s job was to interview the candidates that had been screened and short-listed. Therefore, any matter pending against any candidate should have been picked up by the screening committee.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Lindiwe Khuzwayo said: “The appointment of the city manager followed due process in line with rules and regulations governing their appointment.

“There was no recommendation to discipline Mbhele in 2019, therefore we caution journalists against being used as a private army by those hellbent on tarnishing the reputation of senior managers at eThekwini for private ends.”

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