Agric funeral scandal

2008-07-06 00:00

More than R87 000 of the unaccounted for millions in the KZN Agriculture Department was spent on the memorial and funeral services for the son of Professor Gabriel Ndabandaba, the department’s former MEC, who is now the deputy speaker in the KZN Legislature.

An official in the department has been charged with wilful and negligent mismanagement of state finances for approving and signing for payments for the services, held in September 2005.

Apparently, Raj Singh, deputy manager for communications in the KZN Agriculture Department, is to face an internal disciplinary hearing this week for causing financial loss to the state to the amount of R87 461,76 over payment for the funeral expenses.

While Ndabandaba was MEC for Agriculture, his son, also named Gabriel, a pilot, died in a crash at an airshow in Vereening.

A memorial service and funeral was held at the International Convention Centre in Durban.

Ndabandaba denied that he instructed the department to pay for his son’s funeral.

“I was at my son’s house in Centurion soon after the air crash, trying to sort out matters there and at the same time make funeral arrangements. The head of department, Dr Jabulani Mjwara, arrived at my son’s house and said he was sent by the premier to convey the condolences of the province and ask what they could do to help me.

“I was having a problem getting a venue as my church, the Emmanuel Cathedral [in Durban], was booked for the weekend, and I said ‘I am unable to get a venue for the funeral’.

“The HoD said to me ‘don’t worry, minister, we are going to organise a hall for you’ and they organised the ICC.

“More than a year later the MEC for Finance Dr Zweli Mkhize came to me with the allegation that my son’s funeral was paid for by the department. I told him this was not true, I explained what happened and followed this up with a letter. I was also contacted by the forensic investigators,” said Ndabandaba.

He expressed disbelief that three years after his son’s death, the matter persists.

Agriculture spokesman Thami Ngidi said that as the matter is an internal inquiry, it is confidential and he could not comment.

The Witness was unable to contact Singh.

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