City responds to Joburg ombud case

Council approved the suspension of the former ombudsman in May last year.

The City of Johannesburg has finally publicly commented on the legal battle with the former ombudsman, Advocate Sdu Gumede, revealing a possibly grim future for the entire office of the ombudsman.

In a response to questions sent to the mayor’s office by the Randburg Sun, the City said the work of the office will be reviewed, specifically in the coming Institutional Review.

The City said that presently, the office of the ombudsman does not address the needs of residents.

“It was intended to be a place where residents, especially those most vulnerable to maladministration, could raise their concerns.

This has not been achieved by any measure and the work of this office must be reviewed so that our residents derive value from this office.”


Advocate Sdu Gumede resigned as ombudsman after he ‘literally ran out of money’ to keep fighting the legal battle with the City of Johannesburg for his job.

But concerns remain after Gumede resigned, even though the Labour Appeals Court set aside an appeal by the City, effectively ruling that his suspension nine months earlier was indeed unlawful.

He said he ‘literally ran out of money to continue fighting’.

The legal battle saw many twists and turns with Gumede’s taking the City to the Labour Court, who had initially already ruled against the City.

Disciplinary hearings were postponed and the City’s original legal representation was removed.

In a document obtained by the Randburg Sun, the firm advised the City not to suspend the ombudsman because the reasons for his suspension were not justified.

Sociologist Dr Liela Groenewald expressed her concern about the matter. She said that it raises a red flag when an ombudsman is being investigated.

“At the end of the day, which interests were protected by preventing the ombudsman from doing his job for so many months?”

Commenting on this, the City said it was not satisfied with the legal services provided by its earlier legal representatives.

“This [resulted] in the decision to terminate their mandate, as the specified legal opinion failed to take into account critical information submitted to the City as part of a final independent forensic report.

“This said, the City cannot and will not turn a blind eye to allegations of misconduct; especially someone entrusted to hold the City to the highest standard of governance.

The City will fully engage with all fair and legal processes for addressing such allegations.

“Due to the seriousness of the misconduct levelled against the Ombudsman the City believes that precautionary suspension was necessary and the Council took a decision to suspend the Ombudsman in order to safeguard the interest of the City.”

It added that no City championing clean government could be expected to fold its hands when those responsible for good governance ‘fail to live up to the standards of conduct and ethics that they are meant to demand of the City’.

Initially, the Labour Court had already set aside Advocate Sdu Gumede’s suspension last year.

What are your thoughts on this matter?

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ALSO READ: Concern as Ombud resigns and court again sets aside his suspension 

Chantelle Fourie

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