EXCLUSIVE: Showdown between City and suspended ombudsman postponed

 

The urgent application laid by suspended City of Joburg ombudsman, Advocate Sdu Gumede, could not be heard at the Labour Court on 30 May.

Gumede’s legal counsel, Jason Kent, highlighted that the parties have agreed to move the matter to 13 June, in order to allow Council time to make a decision on Gumede’s suspension. Council will meet on 8 June, where it is expected that forensic reports pertaining to the ombudsman’s suspension will be handed to Council, allowing it to make a decision on Gumede’s suspension. Legal costs will be paid by the City.

Read: EXCLUSIVE: Suspended COJ ombudsman hits back

Gumede was suspended after a closed Council meeting on 9 May along with the group executive director for Corporate and Shared Services.

Shortly after his suspension, Gumede filed an urgent court application in the Labour Court in a bid to have his suspension set aside on the grounds that it is unlawful.

He told the North Eastern Tribune on 26 May that he would take the City to the Labour Court on 30 May after negotiations between him and the City did not reach a conclusion.

“Earlier this week we met and agreed that the City would lift my suspension in Council, but that did not happen,” he said.

Read: UPDATE: Former secretary shuffled to Joburg’s ombud 

The African National Congress Joburg caucus spokesperson, Jolidee Matongo, who is also a councillor within the City of Johannesburg, said the party, along with the African Independent Congress (AIC) and the Patriotic Alliance, did not support Council’s recommendation that the officials’ responses be rejected.

The party did, however, say it would not stand in the way of an investigation or disciplinary measures, as long as they are transparent and investigated independently.

The party’s caucus leader and former City mayor, Parks Tau, has accused the recent decision as undermining the office for political reasons.

Tau informed the City Council on 25 May that Gumede’s suspension would be brought to the attention of the Public Protector. “This is interference in the office [of the ombudsman] that will destabilise it,” Tau said.

Read: Suspended Gumede goes to court 

Gumede said he never thought he’d be at the Labour Court for litigation.

“Although I suppose as you go up the corporate ladder, you must prepare for such,” he said.

In his affidavit, Gumede revealed that he believed his suspension is simply an abuse of power intended to unsettle and intimidate him.

 

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Chantelle Fourie and Belinda Pheto

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