Covid-19 food parcel scandal: Guilty Eastern Cape councillors suspended without pay for three months

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Vathiswa Ruselo, Gallo Images/Sowetan
  • Ward councillor Nicky Vitbooi allegedly overlooked people not aligned to her faction during the distribution of food parcels.
  • It's also alleged she took half of the money allocated by the municipality for the burial of a pauper.
  • Meanwhile, it's alleged councillor Kuhle Ciliza solicited a R50 000 bribe from an artist who applied for municipal funding.

Two ANC ward councillors in the Buffalo City metro have been suspended without pay for three months after they were found guilty of manipulating the dispersal of Covid-19 relief food parcels and other offences. 

The councillors, Nicky Roseline Vitbooi of Ward 10 and Kuhle Ciliza of Ward 1, were suspended by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Xolile Nqatha for violating the Municipal Systems Act, the Cogta department announced in a statement on Wednesday.

"Ms Vitbooi and Ms Ciliza have been suspended for violating Item 2(b) of Schedule 1 of the code of conduct for councillors of the Municipal Systems Act (MSA), which states that 'a councillor must at all times act in the best interest of the municipality and in such a way that the credibility and integrity of the municipality are not compromised'," said Cogta spokesperson Makhaya Komisa.   

The suspensions are effective from Wednesday, 20 January, said Komisa.

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Nqatha said: "I decided to take up these cases after the failure of the council to act, despite the gravity of the cases and negative impact to government renewal and good governance. The need to take action against wrongdoing is in the deepest interest of building public confidence to government institutions."

The speaker of the metro, Humphrey Maxengwana, has been informed about the suspension of the two councillors, said Komisa.

Both councillors could not be reached for comment because their phones were off. Their comments will be added once received. 

Councillor Vitbooi's suspension is informed by the following allegations:

  • Distribution of food parcels: Vitbooi utilised the services of the area committee, instead of the ward committee in the identification of beneficiaries for food parcels during the period of the lockdown. These area committee members passed (overlooked) other houses allegedly not aligned to the ward councillor. The criteria for selection was never discussed with the community development worker and community members.
  • Fraud and corruption: It is also alleged that she took half of the money that was allocated for the burial of a destitute family, which was paid out by the municipality and directed the money to her own needs. Certain members of the community took the matter to court and, as such, the case is still on-going.

Councillor Ciliza has been suspended for the following allegations:

  • Distribution of food parcels: In this ward, there was an indication that councillor Ciliza utilised the services of the area committee, instead of the elected ward committee. It is alleged that there were people who received the vouchers, although they were not from the same ward, but rather from areas like Mooiplaas. There was a duplication of people in getting food parcels/vouchers and the mischievous act of changing of lists to benefit people who were not identified earlier.
  • Fraud and corruption: It is further alleged that she solicited a bribe of R50 000 from an artist. She also illegally evacuated a woman from a house, thus leading to damage to the assets of the homeowner and the matter was taken to court. As a result, he is at the Small Claims Court for damages that were incurred.

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