Our new hero is Job Sithole, who risked his life and employment when he exposed crooked politicians and corruption in Alexandra township, Johannesburg.
But justice prevailed this week when Sithole’s name was cleared by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and he was reinstated as director of the Alexandra Renewal Project.
The renewal project is a multibillion-rand initiative launched by government in 2001 to provide decent houses, develop infrastructure and stimulate economic growth in the township.
According to The Star, “the CCMA report speaks of widespread interference and corruption, and says Sithole should have been applauded instead of suspended for trying to root out this corruption and expose politicians”. The report didn't give the names of individual politicians implicated.
The City of Joburg charged Sithole with insubordination and suspended him from his post as project director in March this year. Initially, Sithole was told he would be moved to another position due to “community dynamics”, but was suspended after he refused to be side-lined.
Accusations of factionalism
The “community dynamics” had to do with divisions within the ANC Youth League in Alexandra, and Sithole allegedly being a “source of tension”, according to The Sowetan.
According to zonal secretary Sthembiso Ndlovu, the problem started when zonal leadership confronted Sithole about his performance as head of the renewal project, the publication reported in February this year.
"In the three years since he took over he had done nothing," Ndlovu told The Sowetan.
“Ndlovu alleged that Sithole employed six members of the ANCYL from a branch in ward 75 to protect his position,” the publication stated, adding that Sithole dismissed the secretary’s allegations.
Sithole believed the city had been trying for some time to remove him, according to Alex News. "Firstly, they said to me I would be re-deployed to Region B and I demanded to know what I was going to be doing there and in what capacity.
“Then I was told that I was being moved for my own safety. They said they wanted to protect me against the community of Alexandra which had rejected me."
Sithole told Alex News he had asked for the minutes of a meeting at which the community had declared their rejection of him.
"They said I was being insubordinate and was refusing to take instructions. I again asked them for the minutes but they failed to do so," he was quoted as saying in the publication.
"The next thing I got was a letter of suspension pending a disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct."
Sithole was vindicated this week when the CCMA stated the project was found to be well run, and Sithole performed his duties well.
“No evidence was presented of underperformance or his bearing on the ability to carry out his duties, or that he was incompatible with staff … He should be commended for the stance he took and the action he took to root out corruption and address corrupt politicians,” CCMA commissioner advocate Ansie Swanepoel said.
“It was mentioned in the arbitration documents that Sithole was trying to eliminate corruption and, as a result, certain parties with financial interests wanted him out,” The Star reported.
“Indeed, if he was targeted because he was exposing corrupt politicians who abused their power … then the refusal to move was correct, as it would fuel and enhance the fraudulent activities undertaken by those elected to serve the community …,” Swanepoel said.
Matters presented to the commissioner included houses not being allocated to the right people; the solicitation of a R1.5-million payment to a party who was not entitled to it; and allocating property in cases where the insurance and other obligations were not met, which exposes the city to financial and other risks, according to The Star.
“Sithole, who has reported several cases of corruption to the police, has had his life threatened on several occasions. He refused to comment on his reinstatement,” the publication added.