Top officials held over Madiba burial saga

Cape Town - The Hawks have swooped on five senior Buffalo City Municipality Metro officials including mayor Zukisa Ncitha, deputy mayor Themba Tinta and long-serving Speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele, in connection with a scandal around Nelson Mandela’s burial.

The arrests are the most high profile since the scandal broke, where politically connected individuals cashed in millions irregularly for the Mandela burial.

From left, ANC regional secretary Pumlani Mkolo, Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Ncitha, Buffalo City deputy mayor Temba Tinta and Ondela Mahlangu appeared in the East London Magistrate's Court on fraud charges. Photo: Supplied. Credit: SUPPLIED

Others arrested are councillor Sindiswa Gomba and acting director of executive support services in the mayor’s office Ondela Mahlangu.

The Buffalo City officials were among eight people who were arrested on Monday. They face charges of fraud and money laundering.

The Daily Dispatch newspaper in East London reported earlier this year how the politically connected cashed in on the former president’s burial in December.

It reported that the ANC in the Eastern Cape had T-shirts made with public money.

The scandal also includes the transportation of mourners to the service.

The five handed themselves over to the Hawks on Monday morning.

Council speaker Simon-Ndzele confirmed to Independent Newspapers that she handed herself over to the Hawks on Monday before declining to comment further.

Speaking from the courthouse just before her appearance, she said she would plead not guilty to all charges. “It’s for fraud and money laundering. Yes, I will (plead not guilty),” said Simon-Ndzele.

The ANC in the province said the provincial working committee will “reflect on this matter and assess its implications”.

“As the ANC, we stand by our initial position that all ANC members who might have information on this matter are urged to co-operate fully with the law enforcement agencies investigating this matter and our justice system to get to the bottom of this matter,” said ANC provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane.

Provincial Local Government and Traditional Affairs spokesman Mamnkeli Ngam said the case was being investigated by the MEC and the Hawks.

“The department cannot comment beyond this point,” said Ngam.