Durban city manager says NPA erred in his bail conditions

eThekwini’s criminally charged city manager, Sipho Nzuza, believes that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) “erred” when deciding on his bail conditions. He further warned the metro’s leadership on Tuesday that it should “be careful” in passing judgment on his ability to perform his duties.

Nzuza made the statement while addressing the city’s executive committee at the tail end of a virtual meeting. 

There had been sustained debate throughout proceedings, raised by the Democratic Alliance, as to whether Nzuza was in breach of his bail conditions, which precluded him from being involved in any supply-chain-management matters.

Nzuza was making a case for needing the support of the metro’s leadership to carry out his duties.

He was charged on 10 March 2020 for his alleged role in the R430-million Durban Solid Waste corruption and fraud case. His co-accused include the city’s former mayor Zandile Gumede, former senior ANC councillor Mondli Mthembu, former Durban Solid Waste head Robert Abbu, former head of supply chain management Sandile Ngcobo, and several companies and their owners.

Gumede is now a member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, although she has “stepped aside” pending a report by the ANC’s provincial integrity commission into the charges. 

Mthembu is still a councillor, Abbu has retired and Ngcobo is back at work, but has been shifted to the disaster management unit to circumnavigate his bail conditions.

During Nzuza’s bail application, he made it known that he had been co-operating with authorities for almost a year before being charged. It is believed that he is a key state witness in the matter.

He was subsequently suspended and placed on special leave, but not because of the criminal charges. Instead, his suspension occurred after the awarding of a R90-million tender to the politically connected Pietermaritzburg-based accounting and consulting firm Morar Incorporated in 2017.

The firm was hired to investigate the city’s troubled revenue management system, among other matters.  

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, who publicly supports Nzuza but has privately tried to convince him to not return to work, told the executive committee that it was a “new phenomenon in the municipality where the city manager cannot do certain things”.

“The challenge for all of us is this is the first time any of us find ourselves in this position. We should always touch base with [the legal department] to give an opinion as to which tasks you are allowed to do and which one you are not allowed,” said Kaunda.

He said the situation would be fraught with challenges, and that a misstep could be detrimental to the metro.

Earlier in the meeting, Kaunda told councillors that all tasks related to supply chain management and procurement would now be handled by the deputy city manager, Sipho Cele. 

Just moments before Nzuza spoke, Kaunda publicly removed him from the responsibility of handling the city’s internal audit into Covid-19 expenses and placed it in the hands of Cele. 

This was after eThekwini’s DA caucus leader, Nicole Graham, signalled that Nzuza’s involvement in that report, which focuses on procurement issues, was likely in breach of his bail conditions. 

The city is yet to conclude an internal audit into its Covid-19 expenditure of R456 683 170. The amount includes R85-million spent on personal protective equipment, R69-million spent on social relief and just over R100-million in overtime for metro police, human settlements, and Durban Solid Waste workers.

Nzuza sounded a warning to the executive committee, telling members not to be “swayed in the wrong direction” about his abilities to conduct his duties. Such an approach could render the municipality “unmanageable”, he said.

“I know that the executive committee is trying to assist me with my bail conditions, but I just want to bring something to the attention of the committee. We must not confuse the issues of my bail conditions, which expose me to the danger of being prosecuted [if breached], with the issues that [could] be crippling me in the work that I am doing,” he said.

Nzuza said he believed he could still involve himself in some aspects of the procurement process, such as the internal audit of the city’s Covid-19 spend, on which he could comment and ask questions.

“So be careful. We do not want to get into [a situation] … in the municipality where I become useless in your judgment, which is misinformed,” he said. “I want to make this clear, otherwise you are going to be swayed in the wrong direction and it will make this municipality unmanageable — some of the things that the prosecutor put [in the bail conditions], in my opinion, was in err [sic].”

When Nzuza returned to work in September he found he could not access his office on the instruction of the mayor. Hours later he issued a letter, which was leaked to the press, in which he claimed Kaunda had told him in a telephonic conversation that the ANC did not want him back at work.  

“I got the distinct impression that I was being pressured to take special leave under the pain of towing (unknown and unexplained) political line [sic],” read the letter.

The KwaZulu-Natal ANC has repeatedly intervened in the affairs of the city, which has a hefty R49.8-billion budget. In September 2019 the party removed Gumede as mayor, together with her executive, over “performance issues” and inserted Kaunda as the political head.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The president, the preacher and the great escape

Malawi’s new president was furious after Shepherd Bushiri’s dramatic disappearance from South Africa

#CR17 fight heads to the Constitutional Court

amaBhungane’s arguments about the disclosure of campaign funding are also expected to be heard

Editorial: Political meddling won’t save the SABC

For years, in moves that harked back to the repressive regime of the Nats, the public broadcaster has been used by the party as its political football in internal factional battles, or to censor dissent.

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

Motsoaledi blames ‘porous’ and ‘rotten’ borders for Bushiris’ escape

Home affairs minister admits South Africa has weak borders, and that the Bushiris had 10 passports between them

Xenophobic tensions surge in KZN

Amid protests by the ANC’s MK Military Veterans, distressed foreign nationals have shut their stalls at a Durban flea market

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

‘We struggle for water, but power stations and coal mines...

A proposed pipeline will bring water polluted with Gauteng’s sewage to the Waterberg in Limpopo to boost the coal industry during the climate crisis

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

Football legend Maradona dies

The Argentinian icon died at his home on Wednesday, two weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain

Covid vaccines: Hope balanced with caution

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…