South Africa

Zandile Gumede co-accused back at work

Zandile Gumede co-accused back at work
Sandile Ngcobo, a senior eThekwini Municipality official who is facing fraud and corruption charges along with former mayor Zandile Gumede, has returned to work.

Ngcobo, who was placed on special leave last month, returned to work last week after he approached the Labour Court, which ruled in his favour.

Ngcobo, deputy head of the supply chain management unit, was arrested and charged in May, along with deputy head of strategy and new development Robert Abbu and service providers, in relation to a tender granted to Durban Solid Waste.

They were arrested during the Hawks’ national clean-audit task team’s investigation into the R208 million tender, in which service providers were allegedly paid huge amounts of money even though they did not render any services.

After appearing in court, Ngcobo was released on bail.

Sources close to the unit said he had been made “redundant” due to his strict bail conditions.

He was placed on special leave by city manager Sipho Nzuza in November. In a letter sent to Ngcobo advising him about the special leave, Nzuza said the audit committee had raised concerns about employees facing serious allegations of fraud and corruption who remained involved in the daily operations of the municipality.

“The audit committee said that this situation gave rise to risk - such as the bad perception that the municipality was tolerant of corruption,” Nzuza said in the letter.

Queen Mbatha, vice-chairperson of the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union, said on behalf of Ngcobo that the union had challenged the city’s decision at the bargaining council and lodged a dispute at the Labour Court, adding that Ngcobo’s bail conditions did not prevent him from carrying out his duties.

The Labour Court ordered that the placement of Ngcobo be uplifted pending a determination at the bargaining council.

Mbatha said the union believed it was unfair for the municipality to place Ngcobo on special leave as the court had not found him guilty of the charges. “He endured unfair treatment because after he was charged he was not allowed to execute his duties,” Mbatha said.

The municipality had claimed Ngcobo’s bail conditions did not allow him to interfere with the work of the municipality.

“We looked closely at the bail conditions and approached the magistrate’s court, which advised that he can perform his duties without jeopardising the case,” Mbatha said.

“However, the municipality decided to place him on six months’ special leave without a proper explanation.”

Ngcobo is expected to return to court in February along with his co-accused.

Sunday Tribune