Durban – The availability of “illegal” money in the ANC-run Harry Gwala District Municipality, south of KwaZulu-Natal, makes it easy for corrupt local officials to pay hitmen to kill those fighting corruption, the Moerane Commission heard on Friday.
The municipality’s former speaker Mandla Ngcobo told the commission investigating underlying causes into political killings in KZN that “kickbacks” from service providers who are awarded tenders illegally are used to pay for “high profile killings in the region including that of Sindiso Magaqa”.
“There’s a lot of illegal money in the district which is encouraging people to loot. Professional hitmen are paid with kickbacks from illegal tenders,” he said.
He said Magaqa - former ANCYL secretary general - who was a councillor in the Umzimkhulu municipality and Khaya Thobela who was the speaker at the same municipality had wanted to expose corruption and they were both shot dead.
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Umzimkhulu falls under the Harry Gwala District Municipality.
He said Thobela was shot a few weeks after he told him he wanted to expose corruption in Umzimkhulu.
Thobela was shot dead in April and Magaqa died in hospital in September following his shooting on July 13.
Three other ANC officials from the district have been killed this year for apparently fighting corruption.
Ngcobo who was a speaker at the district municipality from 2011, said he was demoted from his position and redeployed as a regular councillor by the regional executive committee (REC) in 2015.
“I think I was deliberately being purged because I spoke about corruption in the region,” said the now unemployed Ngcobo.
He said he was demoted after he was charged with bringing the ANC into disrepute for writing letters to senior ANC KZN PEC members about corruption and fraud in Harry Gwala.
He said he wrote the letters before the killings in the region started.
“What I had been raising with the ANC was uncomfortable for some, it made me unwanted in the region. I became a loner because I was raising issues of financial irregularities,” he said.
The issues he raised included a multi-million rand tender awarded to a security company in 2011 without following proper procedures.
“The security company was not even registered with the Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Sira). They did not meet all the requirements but three companies who met the requirements did not get the tender. They were to guard the Umgeni offices, which are municipal offices in Umzimkhulu, at a bid price of R8.7m for three years,” he said.
Ngcobo said he found out in August 2014 that the money paid to the security company had escalated to R22m instead of the agreed R8.7m.
He said he was made aware of the irregularities by a chief financial officer (CFO) whose term was coming to an end. He said the CFO was also in the adjudication committee of tenders.
“He canvassed me to help him continue working ‘because he had helped us get tenders for our companies’. To convince me, he came with documents to show me what he had done. The papers showed how tender processes were flouted,” he said.
He also made an example of a local hardware that was paid R10m to supply the municipality with building material during his tenure.
“Again that tender was not advertised. That is the extent of financial misconducts in our municipality,” he said.
The hearings continue on Tuesday.