Councillor ‘burnt truck’

2009-10-23 00:00

A PROMINENT businessman and ANC councillor in the uMvoti (Greytown) Municipality will face charges of malicious damage to property for allegedly setting alight a R2 million truck at his farm in Seven Oaks near Greytown.

Philani Godfrey Mavundla reportedly told his police bodyguards to leave before he allegedly doused the cab of a Man diesel truck with petrol and set it alight after the truck drove over his sugar cane plantation.

The incident happened at about 8 pm on Wednesday and the fire consumed the entire cab, leaving only a shell.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said Dumisani Zuma (40) was driving the truck to load timber at a farm neighbouring Mavundla’s Nomalotshwa farm.

It is believed that while turning his truck, he drove over Mavundla’s property.

Two trucks owned by Jan Fourie of Umlaas Road were hired by Mavundla’s neighbour, Richard Cyrus, to load timber at his farm.

Sources who spoke to The Witness asked to remain unnamed for fear of victimisation. “We are dealing with a powerful, wealthy and well-connected man here, so one needs to be very careful,” one of the sources said.

One said Mavundla was unhappy about the truck damaging his sugar cane. “He went ballistic and grabbed the keys of the truck.”

Mavundla, a controversial figure who is usually surrounded by bodyguards, allegedly told his guards to leave. “It is believed that he asked the SAPS members performing guard duties to leave his premises before setting the truck alight,” said Budhram.

He said it is alleged that Mavundla, “who had just arrived at the farm in his vehicle, noticed Zuma driving over his property and confronted him. He removed Zuma’s keys from the truck”.

“Zuma then climbed out of the truck and an argument between the owner [Mavundla] and Zuma ensued, with Mavundla threatening to burn his truck. He left the scene in his vehicle and a short while later returned with a container containing a flammable liquid. It is further alleged that he then doused the cab of the truck with the liquid and set it alight, causing extensive damage to the truck.”

Sources said Mavundla took photographs of the burning vehicle.

The truck owner, Fourie, declined to comment and referred The Witness to his lawyer, Deon Schaup of Venn Nemeth and Hart attorneys, who said legal action will be taken.

“At the moment we are still taking statements from my clients and gathering information. I will therefore advise my client on what legal remedy should be applied, but the intent is to take legal action,” said Schaup.

The shell was still smouldering yesterday morning when Fourie arrived with Schaup and a tow truck to remove it. A cloud of smoke and sparks rose when the tow truck hitched up the burnt-out cab.

The total value of the truck and the trailer is R1,9 million. Schaup said his client is also considering opening a civil claim for the damage to truck.

Mavundla is ANC chairman in the Bhambhatha region, is also director of PG Mavundla Engineering and owns the Nomalotshwa farm where the incident happened.

Attempts to get a comment from him were unsuccessful, and his cellphone had been switched off. The Witness was informed that Mavundla left for Brazil yesterday, but it is not clear whether he went on a private or business trip.

Reliable sources told The Witness that SAPS officers witnessed the incident, but Mavundla had not been charged by yesterday afternoon. Budhram said an arrest will be made soon.

“On completion of the investigation, the docket will be forwarded to the senior public prosecutor for a decision,” said Budhram.

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