De Lille accused of favouritism

Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille has denied allegations of nepotism made by a city official who won an arbitration award against the city council. The award by the South African Local Government Bargaining Council found that the way the council filled four area-based director posts was unfair. The applicant in the matter‚ Manuel Davids‚ who was awarded R80 000 compensation by arbitrator Arthi Singh-Bhoopchand‚ alleged that the successful candidates were appointed because of their friendships with De Lille. De Lille rejected his assertion on Friday‚ saying “the allegation that the leadership of the city interfered” was “not true”. The mayor said: “The allegations by Mr Davids amount to hearsay. Not only does Mr Davids not provide the record confirming this allegation‚ but in the bargaining council award ... no mention is made of this allegation.” She also said Singh-Bhoopchand did not make a finding that “friendship/relations” played a part in the appointment process. The executive director for area-based delivery‚ Louis Scheepers‚ who testified in the case‚ told the arbitrator De Lille had instructed him that requirements for the posts should not include a minimum number of years’ experience. De Lille is being investigated by the DA federal legal commission for‚ among other things‚ allegedly manipulating the reappointment of former city manager Achmat Ebrahim by telling the selection panel via SMS to give him a higher score. She is also alleged to have inserted Limia Essop‚ a friend’s daughter‚ as one of the board members for Cape Town Stadium. Davids‚ was one of 160 people who applied for four area-based director vacancies. Ten people were shortlisted for the positions but Davids was not one of them despite the fact that he “met the requirements for the post in terms of the advertisement”‚ a view supported by the arbitrator. He was the head of customer support services within the city’s electricity and distribution department under the energy directorate and had worked for the city for 36 years. Singh-Bhoopchand found that the absence of written records of shortlisting criteria and how they were applied meant the council “failed to comply with its own recruitment and selection policy in this regard”. She added: “In an environment that is politically charged and where the probability of political influence is likely‚ the maintaining of adequate written records becomes all the more important.” She also found it “curious” that former mayoral committee member Ernest Sonnenberg was appointed to one of the positions despite his “quite lean” CV containing an “error or omission regarding his experience as a sub-council member”. The CV gave the impression that he had held the position of sub-council manager since 2008 when in fact he only had three months’ experience. The other area directors appointed were Alesia Bosman‚ wife of the council’s director for safety and security‚ and social services‚ Richard Bosman; Wilfred Solomons; and Freddie Prins. In a letter to council speaker Dirk Smit after Singh-Bhoopchand found that his exclusion from the shortlist was unfair‚ Davids said the four people appointed were “known to be in the mayor’s circle of friends”. In his letter to Smit on January 15‚ Davids said his case resembled complaints laid by various councillors about De Lille’s management style. “I just feel that we should have a mayor who shows and treats people with dignity and respect‚ and [I] know of several colleagues who bore the brunt of her autocratic and aggressive style of management‚” it said. Davids also said the four appointees were “known to be in the mayor’s circle of friends with rapid promotions over the past three years”. The arbitration award will be discussed behind closed doors by the council on March 28.

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