The conversations are between a senior eThekwini official and a colleague, and concern the disciplinary hearing of suspended city employee Zandile Sithole.
Sithole, deputy head of supply chain management, was suspended on allegations of tender irregularities. Her hearing in March was interrupted by men claiming to be defenders of radical economic transformation.
According to the recordings, in which derogatory references are made to Indians, there is a concerted effort by eThekwini councillors to reinstate Sithole by any means.
The recordings are now being investigated by the city.
In one recording the official tells his colleague: “All politicians want this mama (Sithole) badly. I won’t lie to you on that. Right from the mayor, the whole exco et al, I’m under severe pressure regarding that mama’s issue.”
He adds there was a political agreement that the disciplinary hearing would be disrupted. He is heard plotting to remove the senior legal counsel - appointed with the blessing of deputy city manager of finance Krish Kumar - to handle Sithole’s hearing.
In a subsequent conversation, the senior official is heard pestering his colleague to appoint junior lawyers to handle the hearing.
The colleague says top legal counsel was brought in because of intimidation during the March hearing.
“May I ask, was I supposed to proceed with the hearing even after myself and my child had been threatened?”
The official says they have a duty to avoid fruitless and wasteful spending.
The colleague objects, stating that there were circumstances where one could use an outside (legal) person.
“If we are taken to the Labour Court we should not be found to have transgressed on issues of fairness, that we are flouting rules since Krish (Kumar) was pushing the agenda. I still have a lot of issues with this Indian man who is running the municipality with his cousin and all that,” the official said.
The colleague sounds irritated and says: “it has never happened that when a person is disciplined, there is intimidation such as this (referring to the disruption of the hearing in March). It was the first time.”
At this point the conversation gets heated, with the official pressing to have the other person agree to how the case should be handled.
“Listen, what worries me (naming the senior official), you told me in our first conversation about this matter that politicians were behind the issue of me being threatened. And that worries me,” says the colleague.
The official disputes this. The colleague cuts the official short, telling him not to involve her anymore.
The conversation ends with the colleague cutting the official short, instructing him not to involve her in the matter anymore, and that he should speak with the city manager.
The DA called for the official’s suspension.
Caucus leader Nicole Graham said: “He is trying to subvert disciplinary processes as the head of the unit in question while he should be doing exactly the opposite.
“Those who flout processes and are involved in corruption should be fired, and should not be protected because they are doing the bidding of politicians.”
The IFP’s Mdu Nkosi said it was disturbing that politicians were involved in disciplinary processes.
ANC regional secretary and mayor Zandile Gumede said she would get information this morning and comment.