No evidence of corruption

2011-03-11 00:00

I FIND it rather strange that Nalini Naidoo would write an article on the political comeback of three African National Congress councillors (The Witness, March 2). I am further shocked that a poll was conducted (the subjects interviewed were questionable), adding fuel to the fire that she created. To begin with, this is an internal matter that needs to be dealt with within the structures of a very vibrant ANC. One may argue it is of public interest but I beg to differ (since you vote for the party of your choice not individuals). It must be clear that these councillors resigned to allow investigations (into alleged mismanagement) to proceed, unlike a full-time employee who is suspended until a hearing is conducted. This is nothing more than an attempt to scare voters into not voting for the ANC in the forthcoming poll and achieve the objectives of another (opposition) party.

These ANC councillors have been labelled as corrupt by this very newspaper. The paper has created the perception that they have swindled the council of millions. The former administrator, Johann Mettler, didn't help the cause by adding fuel to that perception. He left with his pockets full, but didn't clear the air around his bold statements about corruption. He kept us going with a series of "findings", telling us just how badly this council was being run. In the end it was all just hogwash from an individual who did nothing but grandstanding. The general perception is that once councillors get into council, there is a room full of money that these councillors just help themselves to without a thought for the ratepayer. Surely the auditor-general (in his yearly analysis of the council financials) would have raised alarm bells had this been the case? They are trained to do this, after all.

One year on and six forensic investigations later, not one politician or councillor has been implicated or charged with corruption. But still Naidoo publishes articles stating that "these councillors have been accused of bringing the council to its knees" without a single fact to substantiate these allegations. It's very mischievous to be writing articles without facts like these so close to elections. It's articles like these that warrant the ANC's call for a media tribunal.

What beats me is that this very newspaper printed an article at the beginning of 2010, reporting on a full council meeting during which the former deputy mayor, Mervyn Dirks, requested to know from the former municipal manager and his CFO if the council finances were in crisis. To this Rob Haswell replied that all was okay. Dirks then specifically asked for this point to be noted. If Haswell and his CFO hoodwinked the political heads of the council, how can we say they brought the municipality to its knees?

I feel that Naidoo has a moral obligation to society and the electorate not only to clear the names of these individuals (she played a critical role in smearing them with her hearsay report writing) but most importantly the name of the ruling party. It's her job to write articles that are fair and accurate, expose corruption based on fact and give credit when it's due (regardless of the party). The three councillors were lied to by officials who were on the council when they came into their positions. It is the municipal manager who is the accounting officer, it is he who controls the administration, the day-to-day running of the council and most importantly the municipal purse. I don't see an apology or corrective article being too much to ask for unless Naidoo can come forward with other information that the forensic investigators don't have. Then those implicated can be charged once and for all. Or, better still, she can do nothing and confirm my suspicions that she is campaigning for a cause. A cause which fuels factions (whoever brought the information to her is clearly wanting to divide the ruling party) and takes us backwards in terms of service delivery. Luckily, the ANC leaders will see beyond all this and will do what is best to achieve the goals of the organisation and deploy whomever it sees fit for public office.

Nalini Naidoo replies: I would encourage the discerning reader to go back to the article referred to by Ben Dube (The Witness March 2) to check whether it commits all the transgressions that Dube says it does. Both the article and the vox pop present the views of supporters and detractors of the former municipal leaders. Nowhere do I accuse the former leaders of corruption. The view has been consistently expressed that as leaders of the organisation both they and the former municipal manager are accountable for what happened under their watch — leaving a cash-strapped municipality that had to be put under administration.

I admire Mr Dube's spirited defence of the former city leaders who were asked to resign from their positions and wonder why he did not speak up earlier on their behalf. Is this not once more a case of shooting the messenger?

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