NICOLE Graham
Durban – While the suspended head of eThekwini’s legal and compliance unit awaits his fate over his recent hate speech, the DA is demanding to know who employed him in the first place.

“We want an investigation,” said councillor Nicole Graham, the DA eThekwini caucus leader.

Gideon Phungula was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing last week of hate speech, racism and gross dishonesty following a leaked recorded conversation with a colleague in which he called city treasurer Krish Kumar a “c*****”.

The sanction is due tomorrow, a source said yesterday.

The DA has demanded that Phungula be fired, and party members will have to wait until tomorrow to find out if they have their wish.

Graham said yesterday that while the “completely unacceptable” racism issue was the central point, there were other matters that had to be addressed.

“The recording also revealed Phungula admitting to being a political appointee and that he was trying to appoint a ‘compliant’ lawyer to preside over the disciplinary hearing of a supply chain management official implicated in the Durban Solid Waste orange bag scandal.

Phungula felt that the woman (Zandile Sithole) needed to be protected for the ANC’s sake.”

Graham said the way the orange bag scandal had been handled was disgraceful, “and the Phungula recordings show why. Tender processes were clearly being subverted to enrich friends and those amenable to ANC donations”, she said.

Graham said the recordings also revealed Phungula “took instructions from politicians, not the city manager”. She said the party believed his constant reference to “Mama” in the leaked recordings pointed to mayor Zandile Gumede.

Senior advocate Maurice Pillemer, the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing, said in his ruling he was satisfied the evidence provided by Phungula’s colleague was reliable.

Contacted yesterday, Krish Kumar said it was “heartsore” when people make such comments, but Phungula was not the only one making them. He said he had a good working relationship with Phungula and other staff.

City manager Sipho Nzuza could not be contacted for a comment as he is on leave. The acting city manager, Beryl Mphakathi, could not be contacted about the issue.

The Mercury

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