Official’s one-year jaunt

2013-10-25 00:00

A SENIOR official at the Umzinyathi District Municipality has vowed to fight his dismissal for allegedly using a vehicle meant for the mayor for a year.

Bhunu Buthelezi, the corporate services manager, was dismissed on September 26 after being found guilty of misconduct.

He was primarily charged with failing to declare a car meant for the mayor and keeping it for his personal use.

Umzinyathi said the BMW 5 Series was provided to the municipality by Black Watch security services, a service provider at the time, as a back-up vehicle in case the mayor’s vehicle broke down.

Buthelezi dismissed the allegation, saying it was constructed to remove him from his job.

Umzinyathi spokesperson Jeff Hassan said Buthelezi had kept the vehicle for over a year and had put personalised number plates on the car.

“The mayor learnt about this through his contacts and asked Buthelezi about the vehicle. He admitted that the vehicle was parked at his house. This prompted the investigation as to why a council vehicle was at his home,” he said.

“During the investigation, he [Buthelezi] claimed that he had bought the vehicle from the security company, but the owner denied selling the vehicle to him … Buthelezi has a fleet of cars that have his personal branding and number plates, and he took this car and removed its original number plates.

“What was annoying and caused great inconvenience and cost to the municipality was that the mayor would have to rent cars when his had broken down. Meanwhile, there was a vehicle meant for his use that was being used by someone else,” Hassan said.

Buthelezi, however, said the vehicle was not provided for the council.

“The vehicle belongs to Andrew Ndlovu [owner of Black Watch], not the municipality. It was in my possession for safe keeping on arrangement between myself and its owner,” he said.

Buthelezi said the car was bought after he raised concerns about the safety of the mayor’s bodyguards, who had to walk home after work while carrying pistols.

“The security company owner brought the car in, saying the guards would use it and the council would have to pay R30 000 a month. I said no. He then asked me to keep the car while he decided what to do with it,” he said.

Buthelezi said the car had a similar personalised plate to his. He has five cars with personalised number plates, including “Unyazi” and “Lunyazi” (meaning fast car), and the car meant for the mayor bore the plate “Unyaz”.

“It’s not my fault that he chose number plates similar to mine.”

Buthelezi said he drove the car around at times at the request of the owner to keep the battery operating.

Hassan said there were allegations that Buthelezi had tampered with tender documents.

“The contract with [Black Watch] was coming to an end and a tender was advertised. Other companies applied, but … we found that all the other tender documents had gone missing, and it was as if Black Watch was the only company that applied.”

He said the contract with Black Watch, which included the BMW, has since been cancelled.

Buthelezi said he was not the one who lost the tender documents.

“A few days after the closure of the tender process, I inquired from the supply chain manager about the progress. He informed me that the tender documents were lost in his office.” He said the municipal manager received a tip that he was the culprit and charges were laid against him.

Buthelezi said he would seek to overturn his dismissal as he believes the charges against him were fabricated and the disciplinary process unjust.

“This has been damaging. In the eyes of the public, I will forever be known as a corrupt person.”

Ndlovu said the vehicle was offered for use to the municipality, but it rejected the amount he wanted and decided to buy its own vehicle.

He said he was still the registered owner of the vehicle, and it had been with Buthelezi at his request.

Hassan rejected this, saying: “The fact of the matter is that the car was part of the tender and meant for use by the mayor, but Buthelezi did not declare it.”

He said he understands Buthelezi plans to appeal against his dismissal.

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