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Calls for an internal probe after 52 street lights stolen

Two suspects aged 31 and 44 were arrested after being found with 52 LED street lights engraved as property of the eThekwini Municipality. Picture: Hawks/SAPS

Two suspects aged 31 and 44 were arrested after being found with 52 LED street lights engraved as property of the eThekwini Municipality. Picture: Hawks/SAPS

Published Nov 15, 2023


Durban — Opposition parties in eThekwini have called for an investigation to ascertain whether there was no internal involvement in the stealing of 52 street lights which were intercepted on the Mozambican border at the weekend.

On Saturday, police working together with the newly established Border Management Unit searched a van at Kosi Bay near the KwaZulu-Natal border and discovered the street lights packed on a trailer.

According to police, “The street lights fittings were engraved as property of eThekwini Municipality. Upon verification, it was confirmed by the Electricity Unit that the precise value of the recovered street light fittings is R151 537.96 including VAT. The initial quoted value of between R1.8 million and R1.9 million was an estimate without any confirmation from the Municipality’s Supply Chain Management and Engineers responsible for the procurement of these items.”

Police arrested two Mozambican suspects after they failed to explain how they obtained the municipal property. The two made a first appearance in the Manguzi Magistrate’s court.

Provincial Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Simphiwe Mhlongo said the case was postponed to Monday for a bail application. Opposition parties in eThekwini believed the two could have been assisted by people inside the municipality.

Leading the charge African Democratic Change councillor Visvin Reddy said it was highly improbable that the two Mozambicans were working alone. Reddy said the arrest raised a serious concern about the safety and security of municipal stock in our city.

“ADeC strongly believes that a syndicate is operating within the municipality where officials and outside criminals work in an unholy alliance to keep looting the municipality. ADeC is calling for an immediate investigation to be conducted to get to the bottom of these criminal activities that are eroding our city’s development and progress.

“It is alarming that there are no mechanisms in place within the municipality to safeguard the municipal stock, making it vulnerable to theft,” said Reddy.

He added that it was quite surprising that despite the high number of street lights stolen daily, repair and replacement of these lights never seem to happen, leaving many areas in the dark and exposing citizens to risks.

DA eThekwini head Thabani Mthethwa said the head of electricity must respond urgently.

“The DA has lost confidence in the City Integrity and Investigating Unit to investigate issues pertaining to the electricity department,” he said.

IFP leader in eThekwini Mdu Nkosi said the IFP has written to the head of electricity requesting more details. He added that another question that should be asked was why these lights were never used since many areas in the city were dark.

“We need an internal investigation because we do not believe that there were people who could be able to steal such a large number of street lights without the assistance of staff.”

Both Nkosi and Mthethwa wanted to know whether the city had opened a criminal case before the arrest. Both also called for an external team to investigate the matter. Both also questioned how the material was stored and which security team was on shift.

Human Settlement and Infrastructure committee chairperson in eThekwini municipality, Themba Mvubu, said any suspicious activity would be investigated.

EThekwini mayor, councillor Mxolisi Kaunda, commended law enforcement agencies along the border for making the arrest. He said the matter was being handled internally and by the SAPS. Kaunda said the municipality was committed to rooting out any form of criminality within.

“We appeal to everyone to give law enforcement agencies the space to conduct a thorough investigation. We expect our officials to fully co-operate with the police because we want to get to the bottom of the matter.”

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