The eThekwini Metro municipal manager has been suspended with a mere 18 days left on his contract.
S’bu Sithole confirmed on Tuesday that eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede, had hand delivered a notice to him calling for the “early termination” of his contract forthwith.
Sithole said he was still at work. His contract as city manager expires on December 31 and he has reapplied for the job.
“As far as I know, I have not been suspended. I am very clear on what the law provides and I am also clear when council is in recess that no one can take decisions except the municipal manager in consultation with the mayor.”
He said any appointment of his successor would need to be undertaken at the behest of the council and no one else.
“I indicated I would reply, which I have done, but I am aware the mayor is not here. I wanted to ensure she received my letter in person and confidentially.”
Gumede’s action has sparked the ire of the Democratic Alliance (DA), who accused her of acting unilaterally by terminating the city manager’s contract without council approval and just days before it was expected to end.
DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango, in a statement, said: “The DA has today (Tuesday) written to eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede advising her to urgently reverse her decision to suspend and give ‘compulsory leave’ to City Manager Sbu Sithole.”
He said Gumede had no legal authority to make a such decision.
He said the party had written to Gumede demanding she reverse the decision by 4pm on Wednesday.
“Mayor Gumede does not have the power in law to suspend or place on compulsory leave, any official unilaterally; let alone the City Manager. The mayor may only request Council to do so, and in this case no such request to Council has been made.
“If this flawed process is not reversed, we will have no option than to take further legal steps against it,” he said.
Mncwango said the rule of law had been “completely thrown out of the door” by the African National Congress (ANC) in the City.
Approached for comment, eThekwini Municipality’s spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said this was a confidential matter.
“The City does not discuss internal matters with a third party as these are confidential between the employer and concerned employee,” Mthethwa said.
“If and when there are labour related issues, we address those concerns directly with the employees concerned.”
But Mthethwa said Sithole’s contract was not permanent anyway.
“As you are aware, a contract of a Section 57 employee is not a permanent post. It is a standard procedure that when a contract of a Section 57 employee expires, a Municipality must have a recruitment plan in place to fill the post.
“The process involves advertising the post, shortlisting and interviewing the shortlisted candidates. Please read Section 57 of the Municipal Systems Act No 32 of 2000 where you will find details of the process.”
Sithole said an in-camera executive council meeting sat on 8 December to discuss “the issue” of his position, but that he did not believe the letter came about as a result of that meeting.
“I can confirm that I have reapplied for the position. The interview hasn’t been held. I don’t know what the process is at the moment.”
He said despite this, he was still packing up his personal items in his office in anticipation of his contract expiring later this month.
He would not comment on whether there had been a breakdown in the relationship between him and the mayor.
It is well-known that prior to Gumede being appointed mayor, she and Sithole had had a poor relationship, with Gumede rumoured to be lobbying for her preferred candidate for the position. .
Gumede took over the administration of eThekwini from the previous mayor James Nxumalo following the August 3 local government elections.
– African News Agency