uMngeni speaker convicted

2009-09-17 00:00

THE speaker in the uMngeni Municipality, Surya Kumari Pillay, and her husband, Moonsamy Pillay, were recently found guilty of fraudently obtaining a RDP house in Howick West.

Although their case in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court was concluded at the end of July, the Democratic Alliance has raised questions as to why this information was not made available to council. The matter has also opened up a can of worms within the municipality with sources pointing out that a DA councillor, Deborah Msimanga, who also allegedly obtained her house fraudulently.

The DA claims it raised the issue about the speaker’s conviction because she had been entrusted with sorting out the matter of a forensic probe at the municipality. Pillay was given the forensic report by the then MEC for Local Government more than a year ago, and there has been frustration about repeated delays in resolving issues raised in the report.

The DA’s Tim Lindsay-White said notification of the judgment in the Pillay matter was given to the general manager of Corporate Services, Sandile Buthelezi, when he was acting municipal manager. He did not pass this information to council.

“It is of considerable concern that this criminal judgment, which has a direct relevance to council and the public, has been deliberately hushed up by the ANC uMngeni caucus and the administration,” he said.

Lindsay-White added that Pillay has remained in her position as councillor and speaker, a position of trust that demands the highest probity. He held her accountable for “delaying and allegedly mishandling two forensic investigations into allegations of maladministration and corruption” in the municipality. All this, he said, “while she was found guilty of a crime and dishonesty herself”.

ANC sources said that while the DA is busy pointing fingers elsewhere, it should put its own house in order.

Councillor Pam Passmoor, leader of the DA uMngeni caucus, said that as soon as her party became aware of the allegations that Msimanga had been given a low-cost house, she was immediately suspended from the party and an internal disciplinary process was initiated. “Should it be found that the house has been applied for and/or obtained irregularly, the councillor will be removed from office and replaced, and the matter handed to the SAPS for further action,” Passmoor said.

In the Pillay’s case, the couple had stated that they were unemployed in the application for a housing subsidy. This was despite the fact that she was employed at the uMngeni Municipality and was receiving a monthly salary of R4 466.

To qualify for a subsidy, a family has to have an income of less than R3 500 per month.

They pleaded guilty to the charge and were sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment suspended for five years. They also agreed to repay the R26 937 government subsidy.

When contacted yesterday, the speaker said she had no comment as her husband had dealt with the court case.

She said she was no longer handling matters dealing with the uMngeni forensic probe.

Buthelezi did not respond by the time of going to press and the mayor could not be reached.

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