Durban’s top cop and the city are locking horns over who calls the shots in the Metro Police.

In an application brought before the Durban High Court yesterday, Metro Police chief Eugene Nzama accused the eThekwini Municipality and acting municipal manager Dumisile Nene of undermining his authority and “changing the roles of police officers to security guards” for the protection of some councillors’ premises and areas in the city hall. But the city and Nene are taking Nzama on and have opposed his application.

They argued that he already has an almost identical matter pending before the South African Bargaining Council and therefore said his application before the court was “vexatious”.

In his court papers, Nzama said certain structures had been formed within the Metro Police Department without his involvement, which had led to the “dissolution of legitimate units and creation of new units, which do not report to and/or are not accountable to me as the head of the Metro Police Department”.

“For example, the units that provide protection to councillors were formed by the predecessor of (Nene) and (Nene) has further continued with the status quo.”

Nzama is asking the court to order the city and Nene to “recognise, respect and restore” his roles and responsibilities, as well as to nullify and reverse administrative decisions, he says were made without consulting him.

In court papers, Nzama said that in 2012 his roles and responsibilities “began to change” and his duties were “drastically reduced”.

This followed a human resources meeting attended by himself and around 1000 of his officers, at which it was announced that he would be reporting directly to the municipal manager from then on.

“Thereafter, the then municipal manager began to overrule decisions I made.”

Nzama said a specific example of how he had been “sidelined” was that last year, more than 20 vehicles, including double cabs, single cabs, combis, BMW and Audi sedans, were hired without his approval or knowledge.

He subsequently received two financial expenditure control certificates to sign - one reflecting an over-expenditure “which included the hire of vehicles amounting to R501 736” and another reflecting an over-expenditure “largely due to the hired vehicles amounting to R1 174 164.49”.

“The issue of the said hired vehicles has created multiple problems for me, as the head of Metro Police Department and for the department at large, as I have been called upon by the majority of members under my unit, as well as the internal audit unit to account for these vehicles for which I have no answers the said vehicles were handed over to my subordinate officers, who have distributed the said vehicles in a manner which suits them, not according to the operational needs of the Metro Police Department.”

He said now the city fleet department was “trying to legitimise the use of the hired vehicles” by replacing them with vehicles he had requested to replace police cars that had been scrapped.

Nzama said there were several incidents in which he felt he had been “sidelined,” including being excluded from the hiring process for a high ranking post and not being consulted when disciplinary charges against some officers were withdrawn.

In their court papers, the city’s senior legal adviser, Mbali Ngcobo, said in an affidavit deposed to on behalf of the municipality and Nene, that the matter before the Bargaining Council was referred for arbitration and that the parties convened a pre-arbitration meeting in February.

“As soon as the pre-trial minute is filed, the Bargaining Council will allocate a date for the hearing of the arbitration. Accordingly the Bargaining Council proceedings are still pending and have not been disposed of.”

Ngcobo said Nzama’s claim in the high court proceedings was premised “on largely the same factual averments, as reflected in his statement of case in the Bargaining Council proceedings”.

“In the circumstances the present application is premised on the same cause.” She said the application should be dismissed or alternatively stayed, pending the finalisation of the matter before the Bargaining Council.

The case had been adjourned indefinitely.