‘New Dawn’ under fire

2019-07-23 13:46
Police rushed to the City Hall on Monday following an explosion outside the council chamber.

Police rushed to the City Hall on Monday following an explosion outside the council chamber. (MOEKETSI MAMANE)

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Who planted the explosive device that rocked the City Hall when it went off on Monday?

That is the question Msunduzi Municipality employees and councillors are asking after a thunderflash went off just outside the council chamber on the first floor on Monday at around noon.

A state of panic and terror broke out at the huge bang as the explosive, which was placed outside the council chamber’s main door, rattled the building while City administrator Sibusiso Sithole was presenting his confidential turnaround strategy to councillors.

Councillors who were inside the chamber said they cowered under tables, while others fled in terror, abandoning the proceedings.

The explosive was identified as a thunderflash by municipal security.

It is a pyrotechnic device used especially in military exercises.

Councillors and staff members had to be evacuated after the blast.

When The Witness arrived at the City Hall a short while after the explosion shook the building, employees and councillors were seen milling around outside, unsure what to do but unable to leave because their personal belongings were left behind in their haste to evacuate.

Moments later, police and a City fire engine arrived at the City Hall.

An employee, who asked to remain unnamed, said she was still shaken after the blast. “It was absolute chaos. The bang was so loud we all thought someone had been shot,” she said.

The residue and powder from the explosive device was left scattered outside the council chamber doorway..

The residue and powder from the explosive was still visible outside the council chamber doorway when The Witness went inside.

The employee, who was also attending the workshop, said soon after the blast went off, the bodyguards of the deputy mayor, municipal manager, administrator and Speaker stormed the chamber to protect them.

Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo was not at the meeting. The Witness was informed that Njilo was attending a meeting in Durban.

“It was like something out of a movie. They rushed in, grabbed the principals and fled the chamber without saying a word.”

Another employee, who was in his office said he also dived for cover.

“When we went to check what was happening, there was commotion in the passageway and other people were running out. It’s not safe and you wonder what’s going to happen next,” said the employee.

The employees said there were concerns about the overall security at the City Hall, as people come and go without proper restrictions.

A source said prior to the chaos on Monday morning, a group of about a dozen people barged into the mayor’s office and shouted at the mayor’s personal assistant.

An ANC councillor in the Cyril Ramaphosa faction suspected the explosion was meant to send a message to someone but he did not know who. He said they were all shaken by it because the ANC Moses Mabhida region had a history of political violence.

“Maybe the people who are against the plans to turn around the state of the municipality were giving us a hint. I’m now scared to go back to the council chamber because I don’t know if we will be shot next,” he said.

The ACDP’s Reinus Niemand, who was also inside the chamber when the incident happened, said he also suspected that the explosion was an “intimidation tactic”.

“The report of the administrator was very thorough, and it was pointing at the real rotten parts of the administration. It’s in the interest of those who want to disrupt governance to do these kinds of actions to take the focus off the real problems and intimidate whoever is in charge.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said he suspected that the explosive was a timed component. “I was sitting next to the door and I didnt see anyone or hear any movement,” he said.

He agreed with Niemand that the report Sithole was presenting may have provoked the emotions of implicated individuals. “It’s clear that there is no room for the administrator to execute his duty here. That bomb was a warning and it was telling us that we have to disband council. The administrator does not need intimidation and interference, we must clear the decks and give him room to fix the City.”

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that the explosives unit was summoned to the scene after a loud bang was heard at City Hall.

“Nothing was found and no case was opened,” she said.

Gwala said no injuries or damage were reported.

However, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Sipho Hlomuka called for an urgent investigation into the incident. “This is an act of terrorism, pure and simple. We cannot allow unknown assailants to paralyse our local government institutions and intimidate our officials and the general public. What happened in Pietermaritzburg has no place in a civilised society,” said Hlomuka. “We will not be intimidated by actions of individuals who seek to create chaos and sow discord ... However, we urge all our municipal officials to take the necessary safety precautions going forward,” he added.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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