Would you elect this woman?

2011-03-22 00:00

A SERIAL illegal boarding house offender, who has been the subject of an alleged fraud probe and whose husband was convicted of rape, features high up on the ANC’s proportional representative list and is almost guaranteed a place on the Msunduzi municipal council.

Angry party members are asking how Rachel Soobiah, who is openly flouting council by-laws, will be expected to enforce them and be an example to other citizens. They also question how her nomination fits in with the ANC’s stated intention to field members of good standing in the community.

Soobiah is the subject of a petition and numerous complaints by her neighbours over her illegal boarding house. Her alleged fraud charges involve a falling out in education and religions circles over funding provided by Italian donors. The Witness has established that it was the donors themselves who laid a complaint of alleged fraud with the police.

Soobiah’s husband, Clinton, was convicted alongside four others of rape in 1993 and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. He appealed against the conviction but lost his appeal in 1994. The community involved in the fight against her illegal boarding establishment say one of their concerns is over the supervision of the children and the fact that young girls are exposed to a convicted sex offender.

A Mirror report in 2009 exposed the conditions in Soobiah’s Gaysingh Road boarding establishment. At the time there was concern that one of the teen boarders was pregnant.

The story said 23 boarders were crammed into a three-bedroom house, far exceeding the legal limit. The home was not registered and the report stated its owner was under investigation. Soobiah said at the time that the girl fell pregnant before she came into the house. She said the only reason the place was overcrowded was because she took in children from another boarding house that had burnt down.

However, say residents, the number of children in the current establishment in Fuschia Place also exceeds the legal limit. Boys and girls are housed at the establishment and an inspection recently found that the conditions are far from satisfactory. Residents allege Soobiah flaunts the fact that she is well connected, meaning they will not succeed in shutting her establishment down.

Ward 28 branch members are questioning Soobiah’s inclusion on the PR list, as they say she was not nominated at a branch meeting and they were shocked to see her name on the list.

Ward councillor Les Naidoo said her nomination came from youth structures. Soobiah, he said, is a prominent member of the ANC Youth League and an executive member of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). ANC members say that according to the rules, the ANCYL does not nominate councillors.

On the issue of Soobiah’s involvement in the illegal boarding house, Naidoo said he sent a written complaint to the ANC’s regional executive committee (REC).

The Witness sent an e-mail to ANC spokesperson Makhosi Khoza on the controversy. Khoza said she forwarded the information to party secretary Sihle Zikalala.

The Witness made several attempts to get hold of Soobiah yesterday, leaving voice messages and a text message detailing the allegations against her. She did not respond by the time of going to press.

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