‘How Shelembe brought Msunduzi close to collapse’

2011-06-21 00:00

AFTER former Msunduzi deputy mayor Mervyn Dirks spoke out last week, The Witness can now reveal what Dirks claims Deputy Mayor Alpha Shelembe’s alleged role was in the near collapse of Msunduzi Municipality.

The Witness did not publish Dirks’s comments regarding Shelembe last week, to allow Shelembe the opportunity to respond to the allegations.

However, no response has been forthcoming, despite numerous attempts to elicit this from Shelembe.

Speaking to The Witness, Dirks said: “I realised that if I do not speak out about some of the poor decisions that led to the near collapse of the municipality, history will always judge me harshly.”

Dirks has accused the ANC Moses Mabhida Region, and particularly Shelembe, its treasurer, of having played a major role in dishing out instructions that led to the near bankruptcy of the council.

Dirks’s accusations against the former municipal speaker comes after a string of attacks from the alliance partners Cosatu and the SA Communist Party and elelments of the ANC, who have vowed to render the city ungovernable if Shelembe and certain councillors are not removed from the council.

Dirks accused Shelembe of using his position as speaker to make financial decisions without the knowledge of the executive committee (Exco), which had a negative impact on the municipality.

Chief amongst Dirks’s claims are that Shelembe authorised the bogus iNkosi Mlaba cultural festival, which cost the ratepayers R1,8 million.

The event was never budgeted for and was never sent to Exco for approval.

“No financial expenditure is permitted by law unless approval is obtained from the Exco,” he said.

Dirks said that on the day the event was to take place (January 18, 2009), they all attended an ANC rally at Qokololo Hlope Stadium.

“When the story broke in the media [The Witness, January 19, 2009], the ANC executive members were summoned to the ANC provincial office and we were instructed by the provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, not to talk to the media and they were prohibited from discussing it in Exco,” said Dirks.

Zikalala said he did not suppress any discussions on this matter.

“What I know is that it was forwarded to the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs [Cogta] for further investigations,” he said.

Zikalala said he believes that Cogta did complete the investigations into this matter.

Dirks said a report was tabled by the municipal manager and the then speaker, Shelembe, at full council during the 2008/2009 financial year, requesting council to use R114 million of its reserves to fund capital projects.

“The municipal manager informed the council that the money will be refunded by MIG [municipal infrastructure grant] funding. Councillor Pops Chetty vigorously opposed this proposal in the ANC caucus,” he said.

However, Dirks said, Chetty and his supporters were overruled in this caucus by the speaker.

“We were informed that it was an instruction from the region and that we should vote in favour of it,” said Dirks.

He said council began taking financial strain after the decision and that the money has still not been repaid into council reserves.

He added that, on a monthly basis, the office of the speaker authorised payments of up to R30 000 for public meetings for certain councillors. Again this was unauthorised.

“These payments were made towards so-called catering, sound and marquee hire.

Even in wards where community halls exist, these payments were made for marquee hiring,” Dirks said.

He added that council spent millions on grants-in-aid.

“I have always raised in the ANC caucus my unhappiness with the beneficiary organisations.”

Dirks believes a full investigation must be conducted into the organisations that received these millions.

“It is my belief that this was wasteful expenditure that put council under financial pressure.

“We need to establish the legitimacy of these organisations,” Dirks added.

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