Mr Clean-up’s dirty hands revealed

Umsunduzi local municipality mayor Sizwe Hadebe. (Ian Carbutt)

Umsunduzi local municipality mayor Sizwe Hadebe. (Ian Carbutt)

In June 2016, KwaZulu-Natal co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube appointed Sizwe Hadebe to run the crisis-stricken Umsunduzi local municipality.

But instead of turning the province’s failing capital around, Hadebe presided over its further decline, giving himself a R600 000 a year salary increase and running up a R250 000 bed and breakfast bill, despite owning four properties in Pietermaritzburg.

Hadebe — who replace axed city manager Mxolisi Nkosi, who was fired over allegations of corruption — was suspended by the city council in August 2017. He remained on full pay until August 5 this year, when councillors across parties resolved to terminate his five-year contract.

Despite criminal charges being laid against Hadebe by a new administrator, S’bu Sithole, councillors voted to pay him three months’ salary as a severance package, according to council sources.

The allegations against Hadebe, a close ally of key supporters of former president Jacob Zuma, including former deputy mayor Mzi Zuma, are contained in a forensic report commissioned by former mayor Themba Njilo.

Njilo was part of the ANC executive committee contingent recalled in Pietermaritzburg and Durban over the collapse of governance and political infighting in both cities.

The investigations into Hadebe began after members of the South African Municipal Workers Union and a number of line managers in the city complained to the provincial department of co-operative governance about Hadebe’s conduct. They claimed he had illegally extended a R400-million security contract, had influenced appointments and had influenced a number of information technology tenders put out by the city.

Advocate Sthembelo Mhlanga was appointed by the municipality to conduct the probe, aimed at establishing the veracity of the allegations against Hadebe and the appropriate disciplinary action to take against him.
He submitted a report to Njilo, on the basis of which Hadebe was suspended and charged.

But the report was never made public.

The report details allegations against Hadebe and recommends that he be charged for serial violations of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

Mhlanga said he had been unable to subpoena Hadebe’s bank accounts to ascertain whether he had received any financial benefit from any unlawful actions.

Hadebe had, he said, unlawfully appointed the now liquidated VBS Mutual Bank on the municipality’s banking panel, despite this being illegal. He also found that Hadebe had ordered acting chief financial officer Sifiso Khoza to appoint the bank without following supply chain management processes. When Khoza refused to do so, Hadebe suspended him for 10 days without pay.

A tender was then allegedly issued by the city for banking services, the terms of which Hadebe altered to ensure that VBS met the criteria and was included on the municipality’s banking panel, despite the mutual bank not being a registered commercial bank.

Mhlanga found that Hadebe owned four properties in Pietermaritzburg but lived in guest houses at council expense until October 2017. Payment was stopped as a result of media inquiries about Hadebe’s accommodation.

Mhlanga recommended that the city recover R141 875 from Hadebe for expenditure on his accommodation from the time that his post was made permanent on January 8 2017. He also recommended that Hadebe be charged for violating the Municipal Finance Management Act for the expenditure and for not disclosing his ownership of the properties to council.

Mhlanga found that Hadebe had instructed the municipality to continue paying him his acting salary package of R2.2-million a year after he was appointed full time on a salary of R1.56-million.

He said Hadebe had instructed the council to make the payments in lieu of an application he had made to the co-operative governance department to lift the waiver pegging his salary at municipal manager level, promising that he would refund any excess if the application failed. Njilo wrote to Hadebe in July last year to recover the money, without success.

“This must be followed up to ensure that the money does come back to the municipality,” Mhlanga said.

He said Hadebe had failed to act with “honesty, fidelity, integrity and in the best interests of the municipality” and recommended that he be charged for further Municipal Finance Management Act violations.

Turning to the controversial extension of the city’s contract with Khuselani Security and Risk Management — currently under investigation by the Special Investigating Unit — Mhlanga said 73 new sites were added to the contract without following supply chain management procedures.

Hadebe had failed to act on advice from senior counsel retained by the city to terminate the Khuselani contract and in fact withheld the opinion from the council. Mhlanga said the council had eventually stepped in and terminated the contract, the financial repercussions of which could not be determined because the council’s financial records were with the Special Investigating Unit.

Mhlanga recommended that Hadebe be immediately given notice of suspension and not be allowed to return to the office because he was likely to interfere with witnesses.

Hadebe declined to comment, saying the matter was a ‘‘confidential’’ one between ‘‘myself and the employer”.

Co-operative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson Lennox Mabaso undertook to comment but had not done so at the time of writing.

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