A ratepayer recalls

2014-07-17 00:00

IN reply to the mayor’s State of the City Address, the workers allege that the city was built by them, repudiating the first citizen’s version of the good story, (The Witness, July 3).

No doubt, corruption, greed, fraud and mismanagement played their role in causing the city to be placed under administration.

To date, no officials have been singled out, despite former premier Zweli Mkhize promising that “some were going to fall on their swords” for the collapse.

On the contrary, officials from 2010 have been redeployed by the ANC — the ruling party does not believe in firing cadres, nor does the party believe cadres are incompetent.

Former municipal manager Rob Haswell disappeared quietly, but still makes selected appearances.

Ex-mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo is now employed as a senior manager in a government department and earning a hefty salary.

Ex-deputy mayor Mervyn Dirks, with no political future, broke his silence about 18 months ago and spoke about the corruption.

He blamed the ANC’s regional leadership for the city’s mismanagement. Dirks alleged that the so-called Nkosi Mlaba Festival was bogus and never took place. It was a front to channel R1,8 million to the ANC’s Moses Mabhida Regional Executive Committee (REC).

Dirks further alleged that the REC micro-managed the council from its offices in Jabu Ndlovu Street and decided who should get tenders.

Dirks openly stated that the smart-meter contract, valued at R240 million, was awarded to the Port Elizabeth-based company Unique Mbane and its local partner was Mantombazana Holdings. He went on to say that the wife of a then senior KwaZulu-Natal government official was a director of Mantombazana Holdings and R10 million was paid to Unique Mbane for no work done in the city.

Bodyguards cashed in on overtime pay, too. In the overtime pay saga in 2011, one of Dirks’s bodyguards pocketed R45 578,49 in overtime in July, while August saw that bodyguard take home overtime pay of R47 988,95.

His two months of overtime amounted to R93 567,44.

Dirks was well-aware of this but did nothing about it. He was recently given a seat in the current National Assembly by the ANC, while we were financially bled to the bone in 2010.

The city’s management is still shaky. Workers are correct in stating that local, efficient staff members are ignored and staff from Durban and Sisonke, with no loyalty to the city, are brought to work in Msunduzi.

The city’s unemployed people who have good qualifications are disregarded.

It is widely alleged that the people who carry out the recruiting are a senior provincial ANC leader and a municipal official.

Employees are brought in from outside the city at great expense to ratepayers by way of free flights to interviews, subsistence allowances and temporary up-market accommodation.

The workers seem to have amnesia.

In February to March 2010, municipal workers elected to go on strike and for well over eight days, our streets were characterised by mounds of rubbish.

During the strike, 3 500 visiting athletes participated in the Postnet Weekend Witness Marathon and observed our filthy city.

Streets were trashed and refuse bins were emptied onto pavements. Langalibalele Street, outside the legislature building, was an eyesore. Our city was in ruins, covered in heaps of garbage.

Workers showed no sympathy, and despite a moratorium on overtime pay, milked the financially ailing city for hundreds of thousands in overtime claims.

In one case, a traffic officer’s overtime claim exceeded his monthly salary. The action of the workers will never be condoned — we paid for services we never received.

The city is still in a mess — and R18 million was spent on a redbrick road and R36 million on a wealthy businessman’s football club, while borrowing R¼ billion from a financial institution to address ageing infrastructure.

If there is a story to tell, the ratepayers can convey it best without bias, straight from the horse’s mouth.

• Jay Jugwanth is a retired educationist and a community activist.

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