'Third force' behind office fire - MEC
Durban - It was likely the Umkhanyakude district municipal offices in Mkuze, KwaZulu-Natal were deliberately torched on Thursday to destroy evidence, authorities said.
"A third force element is strongly suspected to be behind the burning of Umkhanyakude district municipal offices," co-operative governance MEC Nomusa Dube said.
The northern KwaZulu-Natal municipality's five finance department offices were completely destroyed by fire that broke out in the early hours of Thursday.
She said the fire coincided with a probe into maladministration and financial mismanagement which had left the municipality bankrupt.
"Under these circumstances we cannot rule out an element of desperation by those who may be exposed and their desire to conceal evidence that may incriminate them."
It was not far-fetched to think there was a third force behind the burning of offices, she said, adding that the municipality was being investigated by her department and a team appointed by mayor Jeff Vilane. The municipal manager and chief financial officer were suspended when the investigation started a few months ago.
The probe would not be affected because the investigators already had most of the evidence, the MEC said.
"If this was an attempt to sabotage the investigation, it has already failed. We have most of the evidence in the form of various report including the Auditor General and whistleblowers."
Dube said the Umkhanyakude district municipality was the only one in KwaZulu-Natal that received an adverse report from the AG for the 2010/2011 financial year.
Vilane said the fire started around 02:00. He felt it took too long for firefighters to arrive.
"We are very unhappy that it took too long for them to respond. Rural metro offices are not far from our municipal building."
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