Durban - eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede has been accused of nepotism for promoting unqualified people to top city jobs. Among the beneficiaries is her alleged nephew, Bheki Khawula.
Gumede’s alleged nephew and at least one other person with close ties to politicians have been promoted while there were others who were more qualified and experienced in the city’s real estate department, according to a whistleblower.
The DA called for lifestyle audits to be conducted on the implicated officials. The allegations of nepotism are contained in a letter from DA chief whip Sharon Hoosen, addressed to city manager Sipho Nzuza this week.
Another official, Balakazi Madikizela, is alleged to have been given a promotion due to her close relationship with ANC councillor Mondli Mthembu.
Madikizela is now the acting head of the real estate department.
Khawula is alleged to have received “privileges” within the estates department because of his close family ties with Gumede. He was an assistant estates officer before he was recently promoted to senior estates officer, the letter claims.
The city’s vacancy portal showed that a manager in the real estate unit earned a Grade 14 salary of between R606 434 and R767 000 a year plus benefits, while ordinary estate officers earned a Grade 9 salary between R177 846 and R230 846 a year.
Mayor Gumede’s spokesperson Mthunzi Gumede said the mayor had nothing to do with the alleged promotion.
“The mayor doesn’t hire or fire junior staff because it is against the law that governs local government, which separates the roles and responsibility of politicians and officials,” said Gumede.
Despite Gumede’s stance now, this did not stop her from publicly firing former city manager S’bu Sithole weeks before his contract was to expire last December, even though he publicly announced he would reapply for the job.
Asked about the allegations that Khawula was the mayor’s nephew, he said: “It’s like me being a Gumede and the mayor is a Gumede. We are related, but not related. It’s an African thing which is not easy to explain,” said Gumede.
The Sunday Tribune made repeated attempts to speak to Khawula on Saturday. He eventually responded via text message and said: “I would like to meet you face to face on Monday. I’m currently busy so that you can brief me properly.”
In Madikizela’s case, Hoosen said the promotion came despite Madikizela still being on probation as manager of leasehold, a section of the real estate department. She also questioned whether the position had been advertised and sought confirmation that the required protocols were followed.
Approached for comment by the Sunday Tribune, Madikizela denied the allegations and said she was not given an unfair advantage for the position.
“I’m shocked that someone would make such allegations about me and I honestly don’t know where they came from,” she said.
Madikizela confirmed she was appointed by the eThekwini Municipality in April but did not want to confirm her position.
Councillor Mthembu, whom she was alleged to have had a relationship with, also denied the allegations. “I know Balakazi, she is the acting head in the real estate unit, but I’ve never been romantically involved with her and I had no part in her appointment for any position,” he said.
Nzuza said he was out of the office and busy with interviews since Thursday, and therefore had not been able to look into Hoosen’s allegations. He said he would attend to the allegations soon and an investigation would be instructed, accordingly.