PIETERMARITZBURG - What was supposed to be an ordinary finance committee meeting turned into an ambush for Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo who was grilled over "a slow response" to an audio tape that links the city manager in a jobs-for-pals scandal.
It is now more than a week since an audio recording, which features what many insist is the voice of city manager Sizwe Hadebe, went viral. In the recording a man is heard giving instructions to another over who should be hired for a job after an interview. The same recording was played for the public in the city by disgruntled ruling African National Congress (ANC) members who marched to the KZN Legislature on Tuesday demanding that the provincial government take action over the municipality.
Wednesday's meeting was set to discuss the financial standing of the struggling municipality, but the mayor was stopped in his tracks by ANC councillor Mehmood Oumar who asked why the mayor had not taken any action against Hadebe.
He was joined by another ANC councillor Sandile Dlamini who also called for action against the city manager over what has become an embarrassing episode about operations in the city.
Oumar has been one of the leading critics of Hadebe and recently blamed the city manager over the municipality's disclaimer audit opinion.
After a volley of criticism directed at the visibly shocked mayor, the ANC asked for a brief adjournment in order to have a caucus, and when the meeting reconvened, it was announced that the meeting was adjourned.
The opposition Democratic Alliance said the recording demanded swift action.
"The DA is calling for an internal investigation within the Municipal structures following an audio clip which was leaked to the media where the Municipal Manager, Sizwe Hadebe, is heard taking directives from Deputy mayor Thobani Zuma to instruct a Senior Manager to deviate from the Council approved employment policies, and appoint a particular person without following the due processes.
"It is alleged that on the clip the deputy mayor also instructs Hadebe to adjust scoring figures to suit the external candidate," the party said.
The party added that they believe that the damning nature of the clip requires an immediate investigation by the Provincial Anti-Corruption Unit and the Hawks. The DA leader said the latest development was another sore point which has become a regular feature since Hadebe became city manager .
"Since Mr Hadebe has been at the helm in Msunduzi this municipality has rapidly deteriorated and regressed from a Clean Audit in 2014/15 to a Disclaimer in 2016/17. In just two financial years our reserves are now depleted and the financial wellbeing of the municipality is comprised. All our tireless efforts to request intervention and place Msunduzi under section 139 of the South African Constitution have, unfortunately, fallen on deaf ears," the party added.
ANC alliance partners, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in Pietermaritzburg have also called for drastic action against Hadebe since the audio clip went viral.
African News Agency/ANA