Putting the puzzle together

2009-11-17 00:00

THIS is not a story of the legal arguments or complexities of the corruption furore that continues to rage in uMngeni. It is the story of how three Democratic Alliance councillors, myself, Moira Grueneberg and Tim Lindsay-White, came to the conclusion that a few apparently unrelated incidents were part of something much bigger. Despite being ridiculed and verbally abused by our African National Congress counterparts and the municipal management, we stuck to our guns, joined the dots and eventually produced enough proof to force the MEC to send in forensic investigators.

July 2006 was a crazy month in the uMngeni council. The mayor, Edward Dladla, and his family had to leave his house in Mpophomeni when it was stoned by an angry crowd of job seekers. A portfolio committee meeting had been interrupted by toyi-toyiing demonstrators.

Rumours circulated relentlessly until a week later when the Municipal Manager, Dumisani Vilakazi, explained to council why bodyguards were now lounging around. He requested that council adopt a resolution to enable the management to assist the mayor to find alternative accommodation. Little did we realise that this simple resolution, which in our view was a request for authorisation to contact estate agents for a list of houses for the mayor to rent, would form the basis of a forensic investigation.

The Dladla family was accommodated in various bed and breakfasts, with the last one being “The Old Berkshire” in Old Howick Road in Hilton. We heard that they had moved into rented accommodation in Hilton Gardens. I drove around the area for days until I spotted the rear end of the mayoral car, a blue Mercedes (NR 222), peeking out of a garage in William Younger Drive.

The focus of our attention was diverted when Moira Grueneberg saw an article in The Witness in November 2006 supplied by Beeld’s London correspondent.

The Springboks had played a Test match at Twickenham where some supporters had waved the old South African flag, which caused an international commotion. Beeld’s London correspondent interviewed supporters and his article started off with the memorable words “Dumisani Vilakazi, a broad-shouldered Zulu from KwaZulu-Natal … ” Questions revealed that our municipal manager was actually the keen Zulu supporter at Twickenham.

Towards the end of 2006, I saw in the Weekend Property section of The Witness, a photograph of the mayor’s rented house in Hilton — it was now for sale, but where was the mayor moving?

We got our answer in January 2007 when I was asked by the residents of Mimosa Drive to look at their impeccable verges which had been dug up by the Garlington contractors. As we all stood chatting, one of the residents told me that the mayor and his family had moved into number one.

We tracked the progress of Lot 1092 Hilton Ext. 10 (1 Mimosa) through the Deeds Registry until it was registered on February 2, 2007. There it was in black and white. We had bought a house for R1,75 million without council approval and which was not budgeted for.

We rushed into The Witness with our story, which the municipal manager promptly refuted, saying that the council resolution to assist the mayor with obtaining accommodation allowed them to buy a house.

It was back to square one. We had a lot more homework to do but we were sure that we were on the right track. Out came all the legislation and a friendly lawyer gave us an opinion which inspired us not to give up.

Apart from the incidental details, the basics of what we knew were the following:

•  The mayor stayed in “Old Berkshire” B&B owned by Jonathan du Toit;

• The house at 1 Mimosa Drive was bought from Du Toit who had made a R500 000 profit in four months;

• Du Toit was the financial manager of DDT Civils, a company owned by his brother, Danie; and

• DDT Civils was the biggest service provider in the municipality with contracts in excess of R30 million.

In the meantime, Tim Lindsay-White had phoned Beeld’s London correspondent and was e-mailed the now famous photograph — Vilakazi and an unknown friend at the rugby. I showed the picture to a Hilton resident, who told me: “That’s Jonathan du Toit.” We had hit the jackpot. The municipal manager had been taken to Twickenham by DDT Civils.

It would be great to say “and the rest is history”, but this is not the case. This saga has taken on a life of its own. The people involved are fighting for their livelihoods and many more incidents of sly and devious behaviour have come to light, but the support that each one of us has received from the community has enabled us to continue with the fight. We believe that eventually justice will be served.

 

• Pam Passmoor is the DA caucus leader — uMngeni Municipality.

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