R50 000 damage to car while mayor in Korea

2010-01-28 00:00

THERE was a massive outcry at yesterday’s full council meeting with councillors reacting in shock after hearing that the official mayoral vehicle sustained damages to the tune of nearly R50 000 while the mayor was out of the country late last year.

Just before the meeting was about to be adjourned, DA caucus leader Bill Lambert said there was an issue he wanted to raise.

He told the councillors he had received a phone call from a concerned member of the public who alleged that the NPC 1 vehicle used by the mayor was involved in an accident while she was in Korea and damages amounted to almost R50 000.

A chorus of disapproval echoed through the hall as shocked councillors turned to each with mouths agape.

When Lambert attempted to ask municipal manager Rob Haswell why he had failed to respond to his written queries regarding the matter, council speaker Alpha Shelembe cut him off.

Shelembe suggested that Haswell instead submit a report to be discussed at the next meeting, but Lambert would not let up.

Shelembe had to bang his gavel several times in an attempt to restore order while councillors continued to talk among themselves.

ANC councillor Themba Zungu berated Lambert.

“This is not right. If you want to play games politically then we can also play … We cannot discuss matters [that are] not on the agenda,” he said.

A determined Lambert said the issue needs to be raised.

Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo said Lambert is not using council’s proper procedures in reporting the matter.

“It’s not on the agenda and I’m worried about that,” she said.

Shelembe said that if councillors feel that there are items that the municipal manager has not dealt with, they can raise them for discussion in the next meeting, but the issues should not be forced on full council.

According to a letter written by Lambert to Haswell on November 25 last year, he raises questions about the alleged accident and the repairs that were carried out.

“Please would you investigate the following matters and provide me with a written report.

• Did this accident actually occur?

• If so, who was driving the vehicle at the time?

• Who authorised the repairs and at what cost to the municipality?

“I look forward to your speedy reply,” said the letter.

On December 14, Lambert wrote another letter to Haswell, asking when he would reply to the initial query.

Haswell responded in a letter dated December 23 last year. It read, “Please be advised that the matter is being investigated, and that I will respond to you, and to council if necessary.”

On January 15, Lambert wrote another letter to Haswell, saying: “… there is something seriously wrong in this city that it takes two months to get an answer to three straightforward questions.

“Please advise in writing how long this investigation is expected to take.”

The last letter was written on January 19 by Evodia Mahlangu, the manager in the mayor’s office, and addressed to Haswell.

“Please be advised that no accident took place when the mayor was out of the country in Korea [from November 7 to 18]; therefore no repairs were carried out,” said Mahlangu.

However, Lambert produced quot­ations from a panelbeater who he said had carried out the repairs and alleged that the mayor’s office was attempting to cover the matter up.

A disgruntled Lambert lashed out, saying: “Too much authority is given to [Mahlangu].”

When DA councillor Glenn McArthur tried to speak, Shelembe banged his gavel and said: “We have forfeited your opportunity to speak.”

A calm Hlatshwayo then told Lambert he would get a full response at today’s executive committee meeting.

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