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Acting eThekwini Municipality city manager term nears end

Durban City Hall. File Picture: Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban City Hall. File Picture: Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 23, 2022


DURBAN - INSTABILITY at the helm of the administration of the eThekwini Municipality looks set to continue with the term of the current acting city manager, Musa Mbhele, set to end at the end of June.

Mbhele has been in the position for almost a year. He assumed the post in July last year.

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Highly placed sources in the municipality have said that Mbhele cannot continue to act in the position of city manager as that would be illegal and would attract a negative finding by the office of the Auditor-General.

If a new acting appointment is made, the change, some councillors said, could exacerbate the instability in the municipality. They said the municipality was unstable and the same concerns were raised by the city’s audit committee which said the position should be filled as a matter of urgency.

The municipality confirmed that acting appointments are for a period of 12 months.

The city manager position has been vacant for more than a year, and has had senior officials taking turns acting following the suspension and subsequent departure of the then manager Sipho Nzuza, who was charged in connection with the DSW waste tender case.

The attempt to fill the position last month collapsed at the last hurdle after the council rejected recommended candidate for the position, Max Mbili amid allegations that the selection process had been interfered with by the ANC.

Mbili was said to be the top candidate and allegedly the candidate preferred by the ANC leadership in the province to take over. Following the council decision not to appoint him and to restart the process, he launched a court bid in the Durban High Court to have the reasons for his non-appointment declared unreasonable and for the council to reconsider its decision. This could further delay the process to fill the vacancy.

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Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said Mbhele’s term would end on June 30.

“Mbhele has been acting from 1 July 2021. In terms of Provincial Cogta circular 13 of 2019, municipalities were advised to process acting appointments in terms of their internal policies or guidelines as developed by the municipalities.

“In this regard, the eThekwini Municipality is guided by the Divisional Conditions of Service Collective Agreement which places a limitation of 12 months to an acting appointment.

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“The municipal council will determine who will act as municipal manager,” said Mayisela.

Councillors in the municipality called on the council to fill the vacancy permanently in a credible process.

DA councillor Nicole Graham said the city should place real focus on appointing a city manager.

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“I think the real focus here is on the process to appoint a city manager. We obviously have had an acting city manager for some time and I think the priority for us is making sure that there is a trustworthy, stable, process that can appoint the right person to do the job,” she said.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said they were concerned that the municipality could be negatively impacted by the delays in filling the vacancy. “There are people who seem to want to push their political interest in the municipality rather than the interest of the residents of eThekwini.

“We had hoped that the position would be filled by this time and it is concerning that the matter is now heading to court which could cause further delays,” he said.

Adec councillor Visvin Reddy said: “The fact of the matter is that eThekwini is most unstable currently, both politically and administratively. History has proven that hung councils don’t work because the political parties that are part of coalition arrangements cannot manage it effectively.

“The post of city manager is critical because whoever is seen to have played the key role in the appointment will have control over the incumbent. The target is to access the massive budget attached to eThekwini,” he said.