Gosebo Mathope
3 minute read
10 Oct 2017
11:35 am

EXCLUSIVE: Mashaba recycles top law firms that give legal opinion he doesn’t like

Gosebo Mathope

An upset former corporate legal adviser has accused Mashaba of abusing taxpayers' money to 'maliciously' litigate against him.

Newly appointed and first ever Ombudsman for the City of Johannesburg Advocate S'du Gumede already hard at work, following the official opening in Johannesburg, 01 July 2015. The office opened its doors on 1 July 2015 and aims to improve the city's accountability to its residents. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has rejected no less than three heavyweight law firms’ legal advice that seemingly does not suit his administration’s plans.

The Citizen was able to establish that in the latest incident involving disciplinary steps Mashaba is taking against suspended City of Johannesburg ombudsman Adv Sduduzo Gumede, one firm opined the allegations against the former corporate lawyer were baseless. In what some claim as retaliation, Mashaba terminated their services and accused them of ineptitude.

Gumede accused Mashaba of committing wasteful expenditure by “using public funds to shop for big law firms to undertake malicious prosecution”.

Gumede was suspended on May 9, 2017, on grounds that he failed to declare his business interests and for alleged irregular expenditure of R644 000 incurred on a call centre agency tender.

“The mayor obtained a legal opinion from Werksmans Attorneys a few days before suspending me, advising him the charges were baseless. He continued to tarnish my reputation and concealed the legal opinion,” a visibly irritated Gumede said during an interview this past Friday.

Gumede argued the mayor was hellbent on replacing him with a “sweetheart ombudsman” who would not rule against him in cases brought to his office by aggrieved parties.

Mashaba is currently embroiled in a tug-of-war with what he refers to as “so-called human rights lawyers”, who have taken him to court several times. Legal representatives of evicted residents from hijacked inner city apartments have argued in several cases the City has a legal obligation to provide alternative accommodation.

READ MORE: Suspended City of Joburg ombudsman: Mashaba has lost the plot

Gumede conceded he never declared his ownership in Julani Investment (Pty) Ltd, as the enterprise he established with associates in 2004, but never traded, was deregistered in 2009. This was six years before he became an ombudsman.

He vehemently dismissed the irregular-expenditure charge. He said the office of the ombudsman was “not a legal entity”, and thus did not sign a contract with a Woodmead-based company to provide cell centre services.

“That contract was signed between the city and the service provider. We were about to in-source that function. The delay was caused by the group’s legal department. My hands were tied, which is why the contract had to be extended by six months,” a livid Gumede said.

In a judgment delivered in the Labour Court, Judge F Coetzee concurred: “… The applicant [Gumede] had no reason to disclose the possible conflict,” and agreed Gumede “had no role to play in the conclusion of a contract with the service provider”.

Gumede’s suspension was declared “unlawful and invalid with no force or effect”, with Mashaba ordered “to issue a communiqué to all employees about the withdrawal of the suspension of the applicant”. The City was also ordered to pay costs of proceedings.

“The executive mayor has not acted in good faith in this matter, he has caused untold reputational harm to me, and he was denied permission to appeal the ruling, as the judge said no reasonable judicial officer will come to a contrary conclusion,” the University of Kent LLM graduate explained.

Luyanda Mfeka, the acting director of mayoral communications in Mashaba’s office, confirmed Werksmans Attorneys were relieved of their duties.

“The City was not satisfied with the legal services provided by the law firm in question. The City thus took the decision to terminate its mandate with the firm.

“It is the City’s position that said opinion failed to take into account critical information submitted to the City as part of a final forensic report,” Mfeka wrote in an emailed response, and reiterated that internal disciplinary process against Gumede would proceed in November.

Sandile July, director at Werksmans Attorneys, told the Citizen his firm was prevented by ethical privilege from discussing the matter with the media.

Mashaba has previously been accused of rejecting the legal opinion of two different firms that advised him to not reinstate a sacked City Power internal auditor. The mayor’s office failed to provide The Citizen with a response to comprehensive questions forwarded to his office on the matter.





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