Durban Mayor’s helper rakes in R50k, no qualifications

By Nabeelah Shaikh | Sunday Tribune |

DURBAN – A woman described as “the mayor’s helper” is at the centre of an investigation after it emerged that she did not have the relevant qualifications or experience to take up a senior manager’s post at the eThekwini Municipality.

Thabisile Ncayiyane
Thabisile Ncayiyane

Thabisile Ncayiyane, who was allegedly employed as a domestic worker, was appointed on Christmas Day two years ago, with a R50 000 per month salary.

The Sunday Tribune has seen a copy of her signed offer of employment, dated December 25, 2016 on a T17 grading equivalent to that of a senior manager.

Two sources said she had been shuffled to other units within the municipality after questions were raised by fellow employees about her qualifications and appointment.

The highly placed sources alleged Ncayiyane’s duty was to attend to mayor Zandile Gumede’s needs and was apparently often seen carrying the mayor’s handbag at events.

eThekwini Municipality mayor, Zandile Gumede. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA
eThekwini Municipality mayor, Zandile Gumede. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA

Mayoral spokesperson Mthunzi Gumede said there was no such person in Gumede’s office, and could not confirm if she worked elsewhere within the municipality.

He did concede that an offer of employment was made to her, and said Ncayiyane turned it down.

When asked how it was possible that Ncayiyane was seen in social media pictures with the mayor, Gumede said: “If a person is seen in pictures with someone else, it does not mean that he or she is employed (by that person) just because of pictures.”

Ncayiyane was contacted for comment and asked that questions be emailed to her.

She had not responded by the time of going to press.

Ncayiyane’s case was also highlighted by Narendh Ganesh, of the political party Minorities of South Africa, who wrote to the mayor’s office and city manager Sipho Nzuza last week, enquiring about her alleged irregular appointment.

Ganesh said he did not receive any feedback.

However, Ncayiyane’s case is not the only high level investigation currently underway in the city.

The Sunday Tribune has reliably learnt that an investigation into more than 7000 Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) ghost employees is also being looked into.

In a leaked report, it was revealed that Xolani Vilane, an administration manager responsible for the EPWP programme, allegedly fraudulently increased payment rates and filled the programme with ghost employees.

The information was contained in the second part of a forensic report into irregularities in the EPWP programme which falls under the municipality’s Safer Cities department.

The report revealed Vilane allegedly fraudulently paid double the usual EPWP salaries to ghost employees.

He is responsible for reviewing employee’s time sheets and payment rates before sending invoices to the city’s finance department for payment.

During an investigation by the city integrity and investigations unit (CIIU), Vilane failed to provide investigators with contracts of 71 workers. He was apparently unable to provide their timesheets and attendance registers although they received payments.

Some of them received daily pay rates ranging from R500 to R2000 a day, compared to the normal rate of R130 a day.

“Among the 71 EPWP workers under investigation, the CIIU identified 18 highly paid workers, others were not assigned ward numbers and there was no explanation given by Vilane as to their inclusion in the programme. All of the above workers were assigned payment rates that were not approved by the council,” read the report.

The report questioned Vilane’s apparently exorbitant lifestyle while on a junior salary.

His cost of living was questionable because he did not disclose any additional income through his declaration of interests form (DOI). This suggested he had another source of income, undisclosed to the municipality.

Investigators established that he only used his monthly salary for items like airtime, prepaid electricity vouchers, takeaway purchases and minimal debit orders.

“As a result of minimal spending of his monthly income, Vilane’s bank balance had accumulated to approximately R126 861,83 on November 2017,” it is stated.

The report made several recommendations including that criminal charges be lodged and for legal services to recover an amount more than R700 000 from Vilane which was fraudulently increased and was paid to EPWP ghost employees.

It recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Vilane alongside his boss, head of Safer Cities Martin Xaba and Sibusiso Chamane, the project manager, who were found to have contravened the code of conduct.

The office of the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin, which established and co-ordinates the programme, said it was not aware of the massive corruption within the city.

“The National Department of Public Works has now requested for copies of the forensic reports from eThekwini Municipality with a view to investigating the matter further.

“In conclusion we are pained as much as you are by these alleged acts of nothing else but corruption,” said spokesperson Thando Wababa.

Gumede said the issue of ghost employees should be discussed with Nzuza. However, he was not available for comment.

“Reports are being leaked to the media even before the mayor can see them.

“It is not possible for action to be taken unless the mayor gets to see the reports and apply her mind,” he said.

Gumede said the mayor was against any form of wrongdoing and believed the law should take it course.

Vilane, Xaba and Chamane had not responded by the time of going to print. SUNDAY TRIBUNE