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Anger over City of Cape Town paying legal bills for official facing corruption charge

Stop CoCT founder Sandra Dickson said the City has set a clear precedent that it is paying the legal costs of its own, despite serious allegations. File Picture: Cape Argus

Stop CoCT founder Sandra Dickson said the City has set a clear precedent that it is paying the legal costs of its own, despite serious allegations. File Picture: Cape Argus

Published Apr 25, 2022

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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has come under the fire for footing a legal bill for an official charged with defeating the ends of justice.

This time the City is funding the legal costs of the head of its Special Investigations Unit, Reynold Talmakkies, who is charged with defeating the ends of justice by allegedly corruptly intervened in a fraud case against a construction company. This case relates to alleged corruption at the City’s housing directorate.

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This is on top of councillor Nora Grose's legal costs who was charged with misappropriation of funds relating to City Covid-19 food relief funds.

This decision which was taken last month has been approved by both the mayor and city manager and is contained in a council report which is expected to be tabled at the next meeting.

Talmakkies is represented by a Wynberg-based law firm, Riley Incorporated at R2 000 per hour, excluding VAT, plus disbursements with the total cost expected to exceed R200 000 as stipulated in the report.

Anti-crime activist Hanif Loonat, who filed the complaint with the police in August 2020 regarding the alleged corruption matter, said he was extremely shocked at this “immoral” decision by the City.

“Especially since it has been signed off by mayor (Geordin) Hill-Lewis and City manager (Lungelo) Mbandazayo, who I am extremely suspicious of (over) his involvement in the cover-up of this matter. He defied the former mayor, who instructed him to respond to my emails and calls.

“As far as Talmakkies is concerned, I understand why he has been protected. He has been used in his position to do immoral investigations on certain individuals and entities. Is this why they are forced into complying with his unjustified request?” he asked.

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The City was setting a precedent that could have adverse effects on future matters, he said.

“I want to warn the City that its unjustifiable proposal shows how this City covers-up corruption, thus producing clean audits year after year. I will never relent and back off on continuing my quest for justice. My allegations will be proven in a court of law,” Loonat said.

Stop CoCT founder Sandra Dickson said the City has set a clear precedent that it is paying the legal costs of its own, despite serious allegations.

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“The premise of ‘innocent until found guilty’ is enforced on the City’s own, regardless of glaring facts that some of these high-profile cases lead to the suspension of some of these beneficiaries during these proceedings.

“In the latest case of Mr Talmakkies, a string of questionable conduct is available to all that want to see and read. By doing this, the City is going further down the path of giving the public reason to doubt their objectivity towards their own. What is needed is a clear policy statement by the City mayor for ratepayers to understand what the City’s actual policy around these issues are,” she said.

Dickson said it should not, under any circumstances, be up to the mayor and the City manager to take decisions in this regard and only be given to council to rubber-stamp.

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GOOD Party secretary-general Brett Herron said while it might not be illegal, it was unfathomable and unprincipled for an employer to fund the legal costs of employees accused of stealing from it.

“What exactly is it that this investigative and intelligence unit, set up outside the ambit of the Police Act, is up to in the City? Why are the DA and City of Cape Town defending Talmakkies? What is his bargaining chip?” he said.

Herron said ratepayers’ money must be spent improving the lives of ratepayers and not wasted defending those who steal it.

Approached for comment, Talmakkies referred to his lawyer John Riley who declined comment and referred to the City for a response.

The City confirmed it was paying legal fees on the Bellville matter for Talmakkies as it said this was in line with its policies. The City said charges against Talmakkies were not clear and were a result of his functions with the City.

“Legal fees are not being paid for any other matters. As to cost, the trial has not yet started. The City will recover cost if required in terms of its policy,” it said.

The City confirmed that it was paying legal fees on the Bellville matter for Talmakkies as it said this was in line with its policies. The City said charges against Talmakkies were not clear and were a result of his functions with the City.

“Legal fees are not being paid for any other matters. As to cost, the trial has not yet started. The City will recover cost if required in terms of its policy,” it said.

The City also reiterated its stance that Talmakkies never managed the City’s safety and security investigations unit, adding that Nyaniso Ngele was the manager of the unit and Talmakkies, whose designation was head, reported to him.

“The term head is a designation across the City's directorates and departments. It is a designation and does not mean that a person with such designation is in charge of the department or unit,” it said.

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Cape Argus

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