Suspended eThekwini city manager’s stand-in ’plotted to oust him’
Durban – NEWLY appointed acting eThekwini city manager Sipho Cele is alleged to have manoeuvred to oust the current incumbent Sipho Nzuza, who is facing a slew of legal battles and has since been placed on special leave.
The Daily News is in possession of an affidavit, signed under oath by Cele, detailing how Nzuza had contravened his bail conditions at the municipality.
This new development in the embattled municipality has been described by some high-ranking officials as a blatant attempt by Cele to have Nzuza removed, as he coveted the highly contested position.
The affidavit to the Hawks investigators detailed how Nzuza had breached his bail conditions, which landed him in court earlier this month.
His bail conditions were subsequently amended, and he was told by the court that he should not involve himself with supply chain management (SCM) processes and that he should not be in contact or involve himself with any disciplinary processes regarding City Investigations and Integrity Unit (CIIU) matters.
In the affidavit, Cele, who was city manager between March and September when Nzuza was on a leave of absence, gave details of how Nzuza violated his bail conditions.
He said that on his return to work at about late September, Nzuza had instructed a security head to reinstate his biometric access to eThekwini premises.
“At the time these instructions were given, I was not consulted by Nzuza. On October 5, 2020, I was an attendee at a management virtual meeting that was chaired by Nzuza. To my recollection, the items that were on the agenda that were discussed were, among others, progress on the reports of the CIIU, progress on consequence management, finance-related matters, the Covid-19 response and related matters, and matters arising from our previous meetings,” reads the affidavit.
“A supply chain management process, relating to an ongoing security tender, was discussed at the meeting. Nzuza requested an update on the status of the tender process related to the mentioned security tender. Of further concern was my knowledge that Nzuza is currently out on bail and that the conditions of his bail are that he should not engage in SCM-related matters,” said Cele in the affidavit.
When contacted for comment, Cele referred the Daily News to the city spokesperson on the merits of his appointment.
“I did not appoint myself and the matter of the Morar report is before the court, so I can’t comment on it anyhow,” he said.
Mayoral spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said: “All we can say is that the city manager has been granted special leave, and the acting city manager is Mr Sipho Cele, who has acted in this position before.”
Nzuza would not be drawn to comment on the matter.
At least two ANC council members, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, and a CIIU source, said Cele was cunning and that the ruling ANC in eThekwini had opened itself to criticism by appointing him as acting city manager in Nzuza’s absence.
Nzuza was granted special leave at an in-committee meeting on Tuesday, following his application for such early this month, with the council’s majority going with Cele as acting city manager.
“We refuse to be used as voting cows by endorsing decisions that will embarrass the ANC into unwinnable matters in court. DCM Sipho Cele has filed an affidavit on Nzuza for breaking bail conditions. DCM Cele is now a witness in the bail conditions matter, therefore he cannot be appointed as an acting city manager. He is also implicated in the Morar report after Nzuza had charged him for misconduct,” said one council member.
Another council member said the appointment could undermine future council decisions.
“I’m against his (Cele) appointment because of the manner in which this was done. When someone acts in the best interests of the municipality, would they initiate a process that would benefit them in the end? This is not right. A wrong precedent was set here,” said the member.
The CIIU source said that by submitting the affidavit that saw Nzuza back in court, Cele could be settling a score.
“Remember, Nzuza had at one stage charged Cele and other officials for misconduct. “The matter was handled by an accounting firm, Morar Incorporated, and it is still active. He (Cele) is now settling that score,” said the source.