The head of eThekwini’s legal and compliance unit was this week found guilty of hate speech, racism and gross dishonesty.Picture: Archives

Durban - The head of eThekwini’s legal and compliance unit was this week found guilty of hate speech, racism and gross dishonesty.

Gideon Phungula made headlines when a recording of him referring to city treasurer Krish Kumar by the c-word went viral.

He will learn on Wednesday if he will keep his job.

Phungula was found guilty of two of the six charges he faced at a disciplinary hearing.

Phungula opted to represent himself after his legal representative withdrew from the matter.

The charges he faced were related to a leaked phone recording with a colleague.

In the recordings, Phungula allegedly tried to convince the colleague to manipulate a disciplinary hearing of the suspended deputy head of supply chain, Zandile Sithole, with the aim of having her reinstated. He alleged certain politicians wanted Sithole back in her role. Sithole was suspended for alleged tender corruption.

In his ruling, the chairperson said he was satisfied that the evidence provided by the colleague was reliable. He also heard how the relationship between Phungula and his boss, city manager Sipho Nzuza, had become strained.

In the recordings, Phungula said he did not regard Nzuza as his boss and referred to him as “iDombolo” (a dumpling). The chairperson said Phungula was legally obliged to report to the city manager, however, it was clear that a working relationship between the two had become untenable. “He is very disparaging of the municipal manager in the telephone conversation with the colleague referring to him on one occasion as a dumpling in the context of him refusing to bow to political pressure.

“He said that if he was a good leader he would have bowed to that pressure as he had done. It was apparent that the two cannot be expected to work together,” said the chairperson.

During the hearing, Nzuza said he had not been involved in Phungula’s appointment.

“During cross-examination, it emerged that the appointment process was contaminated with political interference and that the politicians wanted Phungula appointed, even though he was the weakest of the four candidates in the first round.

“When the city manager refused to do this the process was aborted and a fresh process in which he played no part was undertaken.

“It seems Mr Phungula’s understanding of why he was appointed and the kind of instructions he was expected to carry out as expressed in the telephone discussion has some basis in reality,” said the chairperson.

He noted that Sithole’s disciplinary hearing did not take place at the scheduled time as the chairperson and the evidence leader was changed.

“The enquiry (of Sithole) has still not been completed and on the evidence, there was a considerable wasted expenditure in the aborted hearing that was occasioned by the manipulation of the process by Mr Phungula.”

The old team has since been re-appointed after Phungula’s suspension.

Phungula was cleared on charges related to the accuracy of the information he provided in his application of employment.

Attempts for comment from Phungula were unsuccessful.

Sunday Tribune