Sipho Cele vying for the top city job
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DURBAN - ACTING City manager for eThekwini Municipality Sipho Cele has thrown his hat in the ring to lead the province's biggest municipality, on a full-time basis, saying his experience and qualifications make him suitable for the top job.
Cele, who has been acting in the position for close to 14 months, has been credited with providing a steady hand, following the arrest and subsequent suspension of city manager Sipho Nzuza.
Nzuza and several city officials and councillors, including former mayor Zandile Gumede, are implicated in a multi-million rand Durban Solid Waste tender fraud.
Nzuza is currently fighting to overturn a judgment that forbids him from assuming the responsibilities of the accounting officer. His five-year contract with the municipality will come to an end next year. His corruption trial is expected to start next year.
In a wide ranging interview with The Mercury yesterday, Cele said he would avail himself to compete with other professionals to assume the position on a full time basis, when it becomes available.
Cele has been in local government for the past 23 years, is highly educated and has completed numerous training and qualifications.
“With the experience and qualifications, my view and feelings is that I am cut out for the position, that I am in, albeit, in an acting capacity of course.
“When that does become available, I think it would be fair for me to compete with other capable administrators out there, for the best person to be given the position on a full-time basis for five years,” he said.
Cele dismissed the allegations that he had sabotaged Nzuza.
There have been speculation that Cele had authored an affidavit that played a part in Nzuza’s second arrest, on allegations that he had contravened his bail conditions – by sitting in a meeting he should not have been a part of.
Cele said he had simply provided facts when he had been asked to.
Cele credited the political leadership of the municipality for overcoming the difficult time and said: “I came to the position six months after the new mayor had been appointed, so there was political stability.”
Asked to comment on Cele’s ambitions to assume the top job, Nzuza yesterday declined to comment, saying it was up to Cele to choose whether he wants the job or not and if he wants it, he can apply for it.
Asked whether he will be re-applying, he said he had not given it any thought.
“Right now, I am sitting at home with many things happening and I haven't really thought about it, so I am not sure,” said Nzuza.
He said he and his lawyers were still busy preparing to appeal the judgment that prohibits him from performing his duties.
Since taking over the top job, Cele said he had identified challenges that impacted negatively on service delivery.
He said the disjointed manner in which service delivery units operate posed a challenge that gave rise to numerous protests around the city.
Cele said, while some of the protests were driven by political issues, those that were driven by service delivery issues occur repeatedly, because of the inefficient manner in which they were being addressed.
“There was very little, if any, collaboration by the various units to make sure that the service received by the community, was not piecemeal. You would find that the Electricity Department is working flat out, and the Water and Sanitation Department is working flat out, but there was no co-ordination between these departments,” he said.
Cele said this disjointed manner, by different units, was draining much needed resources that could be used in other areas.
“The impact was that you would have complaints coming from the same community, for example, people close to M19 would have a variety of issues – in response, we would attend to them, but nobody would sit and look at all the other complaints and how they might be addressed.
“That is not to say that when individual complaints come, one should wait ( not attend) for more complaints before we respond. We have implemented this (responding in wholesome manner) and as long as I am the acting city manager, we will continue to implement this,” he said.
Cele also spoke about the Go Durban route, saying the C3 route from Pinetown towards KwaMashu was almost ready and would be going live next month, adding that 22 buses had been prepared for that route.
He said all the issues with the taxi industry were in the process of being ironed out and, even if not finalised, they would not affect the route going live.