Questions on trips anger mayor

2009-10-01 00:00

ANC and IFP councillors in the Umvoti (Greytown) Municipality nearly came to blows yesterday when arguments ensued about Mayor P.M.S. Ngubane’s recent trips to China and Thailand for investment purposes, allegedly without the authorisation of the executive committee (Exco) and full council.

The week-long trip to China at the end of August allegedly cost the municipality R59 000.

The amount reportedly includes R35 000 for the flight to and from China for the mayor and the council’s chief financial officer, Sipho Ndabandaba. A further R24 000 was said to be for expenses such as food and travelling around China.

The mayor went to Thailand two weeks after his return from China. He was accompnaied by Sydney Sikhakhane, who was acting municipal manager at the time.

They visited Thailand as part of a disaster management delegation, allegedly to investigate early warning systems for tsunamis. Tickets for the Thailand trip reportedly cost nearly R10 000 each.

The ANC alleged that Ndabandaba pocketed the R24 000 as an advance on his monthly salary and that the money was paid into his bank account. They said that it was not used for the trip to China.

The argument ensued after ANC councillor Philani Mavundla questioned why the mayor had gone to China in the first place. It heated up when Mavundla called Ndabandaba a thief and accused the IFP in the council of supporting corruption and fraud.

Ndabandaba was stonewalled when he tried to report to the council on other items on the agenda. ANC councillors kept shouting that he is as thief and should be fired.

“We are not interested in listening to a thief. Ndabandaba is stealing money in this council. If the IFP is happy with corruption and fraud in the municipality, that’s their business, but we are against it,” shouted Mavundla.

The mayor, his deputy, Vincent Zondi, and council speaker Hilter Maharaj stood up and branded theANC councillors troublemakers.

Maharaj repeatedly rang the bell to call councillors to order, but was ignored by both ANC and IFP members.

Zondi asked the ANC councillors who they think they are, saying that the opposition councillors think they are smart.

Councillors’ tempers flared anew when Maharaj claimed to be unaware of two reports by the ANC proposing that the speaker and the council’s executive committee be dissolved immediately.

The reports were not discussed.

The antagonists nearly came to blows when ANC councillor Ahmed Shaik called a recently elected IFP councillor a “small boy” in politics. The IFP councillor replied that he “should not be taken for granted” because he is new.

The exchange brought laughter from the members of the public.

Ngubane later told The Witness that the trip to China was a success, but declined to comment further, saying that all “will be revealed soon”.

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