Msunduzi administrator Sibusiso Sithole is expected to be announced as eThekwini Municipality’s new city manager on Friday.
That is, if he succeeds in fighting off stiff competition from another frontrunner, Cyril Xaba, who is an adviser to KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, and chairman of the KZN Planning Commission.
Sithole and Xaba were last month shortlisted with two other candidates: Vuyo Mlokoti, city manager of the Amathole district municipality in the Eastern Cape; and KZN Legislature chief whip Makhosi Khoza, for the R2.1 million-a-year job.
Sithole is expected to be announced as the successor of outgoing city manager Michael Sutcliffe during this year’s final full council meeting at the City Hall on Friday.
Khoza, the only woman shortlisted for the job, withdrew her name from the list two weeks ago on the eve of the psychometric assessment, saying she had received death threats.
She submitted her letter of withdrawal after she received several phone calls from unknown people instructing her to “back off” from the race or face the consequences.
The situation was exacerbated when squatters invaded vacant land at her Hillcrest Lolongatique Lodge, building shacks.
The race to replace outgoing Sutcliffe, according to ANC insiders and council members, has always been a two-horse race between Xaba and Sithole.
Sithole is said to be the ANC’s favoured candidate, while Xaba has the backing of the ANC Youth League in eThekwini.
It was also reported that Co-operative Governance and local Government MEC Nomusa Dube, who appointed him to manage Msunduzi’s affairs in January, had thrown her weight behind Sithole as a preferred candidate for the top job. However, her spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, has since dismissed these reports.
A former chief executive of the former central councils, Sithole comes from a policy and planning background, having contributed to the development of alternative education and training policies as a researcher with the education policy unit of the University of KZN. In 2000 he was appointed acting eThekwini municipal manager after the death of Felix Dlamini.
During yesterday’s executive committee meeting, Mayor James Nxumalo said a special in-committee meeting would be held this morning at 8am to finalise the appointment of the city manager. The full council meeting is expected to start two hours later.
Sutcliffe’s tenure comes to an end at the end of December after his nine-year contract expired in June.
Council had decided to extend it on a monthly basis for another six months.
Sutcliffe is expected to take up a position at the National Planning Commission headed by Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel.
Some committee members yesterday said Sithole was likely to be announced as the man at the helm of the city’s R28 billion budget.
However, several unions yesterday expressed their objection about the announcement being made today.
Cosatu, SACP and Samwu said the process of appointing the new city manager had been “muddied” and should go back to the drawing board.
SACP provincial secretary Themba Mthembu said that while they did not have any objections to the candidates, the process had been marred by political interference, intimidation and death threats, and should be restarted.
“Our fear is that whoever emerges as the new manager would have already been compromised. This process was not confidential at all,” he said.
He also noted how the city had insisted on going ahead with the interviews even when Khoza reported the death threat allegations.