Home News Suspended Sol official accuses disciplinary chair of bias

Suspended Sol official accuses disciplinary chair of bias

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The manager of local economic development at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Phetole Sithole, will apply for the chairperson of his disciplinary hearing to recuse himself, as he believes that he is biased.

The manager of local economic development at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Phetole Sithole. Picture: Sandi Kwon Hoo

THE MANAGER of local economic development at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Phetole Sithole, will apply for the chairperson of his disciplinary hearing to recuse himself, as he believes that he is biased.

Sithole was charged for the alleged irregular appointment of the municipality’s tourism manager, Neo Poolo, in 2012, as well as for allegedly interfering with a witness in his disciplinary hearing.

Sithole, who was the acting director of infrastructure and services at the time of his suspension in April 2023, refused to authorise a R4.2 million payment to a service provider for site establishment at the Roodepan pump station.

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The payment was processed by the municipal manager in May 2023.

Cases were also lodged with the Hawks, the Public Protector and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) regarding a R25 million tender that was awarded to the same service provider for the upgrading of the Leang and Eagle Street pump stations in Roodepan, as well as a water and sanitation project in Lerato Park.

Sithole’s legal representative, advocate Lindokuhle Dlamini, believed that the chairperson was acting upon a mandate to remove his client from the municipality as he was considered “a threat”.

“My client contested for the municipal manager position,” Dlamini pointed out.

He added that his client was coerced into declining the position of acting executive director of infrastructure, in exchange for having the charges relating to the appointment of the tourism manager dropped.

“The disciplinary charges were fabricated and dug up from the past, in order to cover up acts of mismanagement, corruption, maladministration and the breach of procurement policies.”

Dlamini indicated that Sithole had met the investigator by chance at the hotel where he was staying.

“He was approached by the gentleman and was asked his identity as he noticed that he was wearing clothing with the Sol Plaatje Municipality emblem. During that single encounter, the gentleman took out his cellphone and recorded the conversation. My client never accosted him, as alleged.”

He added that Sithole had merely expressed his frustration at being “persecuted” by political forces within the organisation.

“It is clear that there is a conflict of interests. My client is a threat to the current leadership.”

Dlamini stated that an application for the media to attend the disciplinary proceedings this week was denied.

“The chairperson did not deem it to be in the public interest, even though there are controversial issues of political interference, extortion, corruption and maladministration at play. These matters are being dealt with by criminal investigation agencies.”

He added that if the chairperson refused to recuse himself, they would refer the matter to the South African Local Governing Bargaining Council for adjudication.

“The charges relating to the appointment of the tourism manager have been postponed until May.”

Janine Synders from Engelsman and Magabane Attorneys is representing Sol Plaatje Municipality.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thabo Mothibi said an internal disciplinary process was confidential in nature.

“Hence, it is a global institutional norm not to respond to such in the media. On our part, in desisting from delivering commentary and responding to enquiries, we would be protecting and avoiding breaching the rights of the employee,” Mothibi stated.

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