Rogue City staff run riot

2019-09-27 14:53

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The City is under attack from rogue staff threatening its senior management and possibly sabotaging its electricity infrastructure in what is suspected to be part of a pushback campaign.

on Thursday the brand new Eastwood substation was vandalised causing damage worth millions of rands.

The City had already spent more than R55 million on the substation and it was due for commissioning soon. This comes amidst threats on the lives of Msunduzi’s senior management and the administrator, Sibusiso Sithole, which resulted in this week’s decision to intensify security at the City Hall with immediate effect.

The threats are suspected to be related to disciplinary action that the municipality has instituted, or in other cases threatened to institute, against senior officials who have been accused of misconduct.

Acting City boss Neli Ngcobo and Sithole on Thursday both confirmed to The Witness the alleged threats on the senior management and that the matter had already been reported to the police for investigation.

“There’s been a number of suspensions in the municipality — including traffic, security and waste officials — and now there’s been threats that one has overheard so as a municipality we are going to increase security at the City Hall,” said Ngcobo.

The suspensions relate to overtime fraud and matters raised in the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) report following its probe on the allegations of serious maladministration, improper or unlawful conduct by councillors and officials as well as unlawful expenditure of public funds in Msunduzi.

The SIU investigation has resulted in the termination of the municipality’s contract with Khuselani Security and Risk Management (KSA) and disciplinary action has been instituted against several officials.

Ngcobo said there could be more suspensions in the not so distant future as there were other allegations of misconduct that were being investigated by the office of the head of internal audit Petrus Mahlaba.

Both Sithole and Mahlaba said they would not be intimidated from doing their jobs. Mahlaba — who has since been assigned bodyguards — said it would be a neglect of his duties and he would also be charged with misconduct if he stopped probing matters referred to his office just because there were attempts to silence him.

He said the threats against those fighting corruption and maladministration were not unique to Msunduzi and there were similar pushback attempts everywhere. Threats on Mahlaba’s life include someone telling one of his subordinates that they were going to hire hitmen to take him out.

“When fighting fraud and corruption, we are assisting government and the people that are supposed to be getting service delivery.

“Every time money is diverted to those people that are looting, the service delivery will not go where it’s supposed to go and that is what is pushing me to do more,” he said.

Ngcobo said threats made against her had disrupted even her private life as she no longer could enjoy some of the activities she used to freely partake in.

Attempts to intimidate Sithole started shortly after his arrival in Msunduzi in May. In July a meeting to discuss his turnaround strategy was disrupted by an explosion of a firecracker at the entrance of the council chamber.

On Thursday, he said there were intelligence reports indicating that people were being bought off to disrupt efforts to stabilise the City but he did not know whether the attacks, including the vandalism of the substation, were directed at just the management or the new leadership as well.

“We are already anticipating that people are going to retaliate because of certain things that are happening in the municipality … It’s a question of us being on high alert,” he said.

He said they were speaking openly about the issue because they wanted the perpetrators to know that they were aware of their plots and there were also plans to confront them.

“For as long as we have a duty and responsibility to the people of Msunduzi and of South Africa, we can’t relent from doing the right things.

“I don’t think we must also be defocused as well … We are cracking [the whip] on things that people were comfortable with.”

He said the politicians that were blamed for the dysfunctional state of Msunduzi had been removed and the focus now was on the administration because that was the root of 80% of the things that caused the municipality not to function properly.

Greater security measures at City Hall

“We've touched the untouchables in the municipality at various levels and by that I don’t mean that it’s someone very senior or high ranking, sometimes it’s very junior staff who have been doing improper things in the organisation.

“They’ve been doing this for so many years that they believe that nobody can touch them,” Mahlaba said.

Sithole said those that were “benefiting from the chaos” would do everything in their power to ensure that it continued and “taps remained open”, even for the service providers — but they were not going to succeed.

“We can’t, at this stage, relent, and feel like the threats are overwhelming us. That does not mean that we are not concerned because we’ve got kids, we’ve got families. Nobody wants his or her life to be taken away for doing the right thing.”

On the politicisation of the City’s employees, Sithole said the management has been emphasising to the staff that those who hold senior political positions in their political organisations must not think they had a right to disrespect and intimidate the senior officials.

RESTRICTED ACCESS

Ngcobo said the entrance to the City Hall would now be reduced to the main one on Chief Albert Luthuli Street. All visitors and their belongings would be scanned for weapons.

On top of signing in, she said, the officials or politicians they were visiting would also have to confirm the appointment with the security guards before the visitors were escorted to the relevant office. She said they would also increase the number of security guards stationed inside and outside the City Hall.

SUBSTATION VANDALISM

Acting chief financial officer Dudu Ndlovu Gambu said the City had already invested R55 million on just the electricity infrastructure for the substation. She said prior to that there were thousands of rands spent on studies that had to be conducted.

“It’s a major setback because its commission was imminent and this is one of the primary substations,” she said.

Ngcobo said there were suspicions that the vandalism could be linked to the threats against the officials.

“At the moment we are investigating whether it’s linked — it could be sabotage,” she said.

Sithole said this was one of the primary substations that are critical for the sustainable of power supply throughout the city.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality
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