In terms of legislation, Hadebe has seven days to provide reasons why he should not be suspended.
Despite weeks of narrowly dodging previous motions to have the manager suspended, it was eventually the ANC caucus, prompted by cataclysmic power shifts within the party, that unanimously supported the motion to set the wheels of suspension in motion.
Hadebe has been at the centre of raging scandal at the municipality following the viral circulation on social media of two audio clips purportedly of himself instructing subordinates to “make interventions” in a multi-million rand tender and to meddle in the appointment process of senior staff in the finance division.
Conspicuously absent at Monday’s full council sitting was deputy mayor Thobani Zuma, whose name also features in the controversial audio clips.
Since the two audio clips surfaced, the city has been battered by widespread political, labour and civil society criticism and growing calls for heads to roll.
Mayor Themba Njilo, who is himself facing growing calls to resign, said the intention to suspend Hadebe, would allow investigations to proceed against the manager.
“There was a discussion among councillors on the allegations that have been levelled against the city manager, and the agreement among council members was that he (Hadebe) should be served with the letter indicating council’s intention to suspend him,” said Njilo, adding that this process would allow investigations into:
• Hadebe’s alleged involvement in tender manipulation;
• Hadebe’s alleged involvement in a ‘jobs-for-pals’ scandal; and,
• Hadebe’s alleged abuse of powers in the functioning of other business units and management and the municipality.
Njilo conceded that the meeting was a difficult one with differing viewpoints, but stressed that this should not be cause for alarm to ratepayers.
“My appeal for residents of this city is to have faith in the council because the decision that we took today demonstrates that we are determined to deal with any wrongdoing in our municipality regardless of the rank of the individual fingered,” added the mayor.
Hadebe was supposed to be a focal discussion point last week but the sitting was postponed because of Mandela Day activities and the ANC provincial elective council that was attended by a number of ruling party councillors.
Ahead of Monday’s fateful full council meeting, ANC members arrived at City Hall calling for action to be taken against Hadebe. The protestors also called for a full probe into allegations of widespread fraud, corruption and cronyism at the municipality.
Opposition parties welcomed the resolution to suspend the city manager pending due process saying it should have happened months ago when allegations first surfaced.
DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said the suspension of Hadebe was step one and that much more needed to be done in order to restore service delivery.
“We are glad that the ANC PTT finally knocked some sense into the ruling party councillors to take a decision because this is a serious matter,” said Majola.
South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) regional organiser Sibusiso Molefe said action against the city manager should have been taken a long time ago.
“We staged marches and wrote letters as early as April this year, calling for an investigation into the conduct of city manager. We are glad that this is finally taking place,” said Molefe calling for a review of all disciplinary cases that were administered by Hadebe.
The ACDP’s Rienus Niemand said the decision to suspend Hadebe vindicated the party’s continued crusade it has been waging against corruption in the city.
“Our continuous exposure of corruption and insistence on clean governance has made them realise their folly. As this is only the tip of the iceberg we are confident that the investigation will be the start of exposing endemic corruption that permeates Msunduzi,” said Niemand.
National Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize has repeatedly indicated that those implicated in fraud and corruption at municipalities throughout the country would face severe consequence. Speaking alongside Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene at a business breakfast in the city recently, Mkhize said the qualifications and competencies of senior officials particularly municipal managers, was under the spotlight.
“There must be a minimum competency level when it comes to appointing municipal managers and chief financial officers. If municipalities make irregular appointments then we will ensure those decisions are reversed. We will be maintaining a database of people implicated in transgressions so that they do not simply run to another municipality,” said Mkhize.
Business responds to manager suspension
Urgent intervention has been needed at Msunduzi for some time now.
We are pleased that action is being taken at the top, because that’s where accountability resides. We hope that this is an indication that there is political will to put Msunduzi Municipality back on track at long last and that we will see positive improvements in service delivery and accountability.
– Melanie Veness, PCB CEO