A view of the suburban and city landscape of Durban, South Africa. Picture: ISTOCK
A view of the suburban and city landscape of Durban, South Africa. Picture: ISTOCK

Durban mayor Zandile Gumede has vowed to get to the bottom of death threats made against a woman employed in the Auditor-General’s (AG) office‚ which prompted the office to immediately withdraw its team from the municipality.

Addressing a media briefing at the Durban city hall on Friday‚ Gumede couldn’t say whether the threat came from within the municipality, where the Auditor-General’s office was carrying out its routine audit.

The chairperson of the Auditor-General’s standing committee‚ Vincent Smith‚ has expressed concern about reports of death threats against the officials.

In a statement on Friday‚ Smith said the threats were a "direct affront to good governance and to the spirit of the Constitution. It is both unfortunate and criminal to seek to intimidate Auditor-General officials and prevent them from doing their work. This matter must be escalated to the relevant law-enforcement agencies for proper investigation."

Smith said‚ as a Chapter 9 institution‚ the office of the Auditor-General is empowered to deliver its mandate and is strategically positioned to ensure good governance as a precursor to efficient service delivery.

Gumede said the city was committed to clean governance‚ adding that she had met Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu in March and promised to support him and to strengthen the city’s controls and oversight on governance issues.

She said that while it was regretful the Auditor-General’s office had decided to withdraw its staff this week‚ "we will not allow this situation to be left unattended. This issue must be dealt with and [we must] ensure it does not repeat itself. Organs of state‚ Chapter 9, and independent institutions should be allowed to do their work without fear of favour."

The decision to withdraw the staff was communicated in a letter on Monday to deputy city manager Phillip Sithole.

Ntombifuthi Mhlongo‚ the business executive in the Auditor-General’s office in Pietermaritzburg‚ wrote: "With reference to my teleconversation of this afternoon‚ please be advised that the audit team has been removed from the eThekwini municipality with immediate effect‚ as the safety of the team has been compromised."

City manager Sipho Nzuza‚ who was out of the country with Gumede‚ had to cut his trip short to attend to the matter. He said on Friday that the Auditor-General’s office had been provided with documents and they were carrying on with their work.

Nzuza said: "We are going to make sure they continue with the work, but what is important for us is that we must make available safety to them to make sure their staff and our staff are protected."