Former Durban city boss to help troubled KZN capital
Former Durban city manager and local government expert S’bu Sithole has been given the mammoth task of saving the beleaguered Msunduzi municipality, which includes the KwaZulu-Natal capital, Pietermaritzburg, from financial ruin.
Sithole, who left the eThekwini municipality in December 2016 after a five-year term under a cloud of controversy, was unveiled by KZN cooperative government and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube on Thursday as the administrator of the provincial capital city.
Last month he resigned as the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s interim group chief executive after being at the helm of the embattled state-owned entity for only nine months.
The ANC-controlled Msunduzi municipality, the second biggest in the province, was placed under administration by Dube-Ncube last week after it emerged it was on the brink of financial collapse due to financial mismanagement.
Dube-Ncube on Thursday hailed Sithole as the first city manager to achieve a clean audit for the province’s only metro, saying his grasp of local government was unrivalled and that she believed he was the right person for "the tough job at Msunduzi".
"Our choice of top-notch administrator and intervening team reflects our desire to ensure that our capital city is returned to its glory days and to optimum functionality in the shortest possible time. It is clear that we have placed a premium on first class qualifications, skills and work experience in our decision. We want big, fast results with sustainable impact," said Dube-Ncube.
Sithole was introduced to the Msunduzi executive committee on Thursday and will lead a team that is expected to turn around the capital city. He will work with a steering committee involving the national and provincial departments, including the South African Local Government Association which will report regularly to Dube-Ncube.
Dube-Ncube said by choosing the highest calibre of municipal administrators, her department was sending an "unequivocal message" that bringing back order to the troubled municipalities remained the department’s number one priority.
Sithole was unceremoniously relieved of his duties as eThekwini municipal manager in December 2016 after being ordered to leave his desk amid claims of clashes between him and mayor Zandile Gumede.
However, it is not the first time that Sithole has been roped in to salvage the situation at the Msunduzi municipality. Before his appointment as Durban city manager on a five-year contract in 2011, he was applauded for taking the same municipality "out of the ICU" after he turned around its financial affairs which were on the brink of collapse. He was credited with leaving its coffers with a healthy bank balance of more than R270m.
Pietemaritzburg was once one of the best-run municipalities in the country but due to the collapse of its administrative and governance capacity, it went from being KZN’s jewel to being a basket case. In 2011, Msunduzi’s financial situation became so dire that the city’s net available cash fell from a healthy R120m to less than R1.7m.
The previous year, the city was so bankrupt that municipal bosses were forced to do away with refreshments such as tea and biscuits at council meetings as one of the cost-cutting measures.
Last week Dube-Ncube revealed that the city was owed R3bn but would not be drawn on how much it was left with in its coffers except to say it had enough to fulfil its financial obligations until the next financial year.