Noose drops on Cape Town's transport commissioner

Whitehead 'should be criminally charged'

11 December 2017 - 06:41 By Dave Chambers
Bus passing hotel below Table Mountain in Cape Town. File Photo
Bus passing hotel below Table Mountain in Cape Town. File Photo
Image: 123RF/Peter Titmuss

Cape Town's transport commissioner should be criminally charged for fruitless and wasteful expenditure running into millions of rand, the city council has been told.

Mike Evans, a partner at law firm Webber Wentzel, says he has sufficient evidence to charge Melissa Whitehead - and to hold her personally responsible for the money allegedly misspent.

Evans told The Times he would make the evidence available to the independent investigators appointed by the City of Cape Town to get to the bottom of accusations flying between senior officials and politicians.

Officials accused of wrongdoing include Whitehead, city manager Achmat Ebrahim, mayor's office director Craig Kesson and probity manager Lindiwe Ndaba.

Politicians allegedly implicated include mayor Patricia de Lille and mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Herron.

Evans blew the whistle on Whitehead in a WhatsApp message to Herron on November 16. Herron passed the message to Ebrahim and the council's legal head on November 24, three days after the city council ordered the independent investigation.

His WhatsApp, reproduced in documentation tabled in a council meeting last week, said: "Hi Brett, I would be grateful if you would treat this confidentially. I wouldn't normally mail you in this way, but I'm concerned that you could suffer damage if you and your colleagues do not initiate very soon a full inquiry into MW, probably with a suspension.

"Things are starting to emerge and you and your colleagues run the risk of being dragged down with her if you do not act. I have not spoken to anyone but others have done so.

"The Sunday Times has gathered evidence against her which may run on Sunday. I have far more evidence of the fruitless and wasteful expenditure for which she's been responsible running into literally millions of rand and for which she should be personally and criminally responsible. I am happy to present that to an inquiry.

"I know you are close to her and this is a difficult issue, but unless you are seen to act I am concerned that you will be tainted, much like the KPMG execs who failed to act timeously against their colleagues.

"Defending her will backfire badly. I know it's a tough time for you. I wish you lots of strength."

The city council audit and performance audit committee has appointed law firm Bowman Gilfillan to conduct the investigation. Its report is due by December 29, and speaker Dirk Smit has told committee members it must be tabled before the council within seven days.

The council decided last week not to suspend Ebrahim, Whitehead and Kesson pending the outcome of the investigation.

* This article has been amended to reflect that the WhatsApp message was sent on November 16; and not on September 16 as was originally reported.