Durban — Opposition parties in eThekwini have called for action against speaker Thabani Nyawose and mayor Mxolisi Kaunda for what is viewed by some as an apparent cover-up of serious allegations levelled against city manager Musa Mbhele.
The two, in a council meeting last week, had denied that Mbhele was mentioned in a criminal case that was opened by the municipality’s investigating arm, the City Integrity and Investigating Unit (CIIU).
However, in an affidavit (seen by the newspaper) deposed by the CIIU to the police, Mbhele is mentioned alongside former eThekwini municipal official Amos Jwara as well as Sithembiso Sibiya, the owner of Sotobe Outdoor.
At last week’s meeting, African Democratic Change councillor Visvin Reddy objected to Mbhele presiding over the meeting and asked the speaker to clarify whether it was true that there was a case opened against him or not, of which the speaker said there was indeed a case but not against the city manager.
Responding to Reddy at the time, Nyawose confirmed there was a case opened but said: “I can confirm that there is no case against city manager Musa Mbhele.”
However, the CIIU affidavit exclusively seen by the Daily News reads: “By virtue of Mr Jwara’s own admission of a generally corrupt relationship between himself, Mr Mbhele and Mr Sibiya, the supporting documents of monies paid by Mr Jwara to Mr Mbhele, an extensive criminal investigation should be pursued. The internal investigation is limited by the unwillingness of both Mr Jwara and Mr Mbhele to furnish all their financial statements for the period in question.”
The Daily News can also reveal that the criminal case was opened on May 17, 2023, while the council meeting where the speaker denied the case took place on May 25. This means that for 8 days, both the mayor and the speaker are alleged to have sat on the information of a criminal case against the city manager without informing the council and the rest of the executive committee.
Quoting from the CIIU report which was compiled in 2019, the paper had previously reported that, after an apparent fallout with either Mbhele or Sibiya, Jwara blew the whistle and co-operated with the investigation.
In his own testimony, he revealed that he was a transaction conduit between Mbhele and Sibiya where Sibiya was transferring Mbhele’s money to his (Jwara’s) account so that he would pass it on to Mbhele.
In his presentation to the CIIU at the time, Mbhele agreed that he received money from Jwara – although he “forgot the sum” – but denied that it was part of the deal they had struck, saying it was a loan from Jwara.
Mbhele said he used that money to renovate his house, which was not budgeted for. He added that some of the money was from his sale of his previous savings.
When pressed for comment, Jwara said he was unaware that there was a case opened against him, claiming that he has nothing to do with the allegations.
Mbhele did not respond to questions sent to him, and his phone rang constantly. He did not respond to voice messages left on his phone.
However, to emailed questions, the mayor’s spokesperson, Mluleki Mntungwa, said the mayor dealt with this matter last week in a media briefing and committed to table a report he has compiled on the matter in the council.
“Let us wait for that process to unfold,” he said.
Weighing in on the new revelations, Reddy said he always suspected that the two (mayor and speaker) were covering up and called for action against them.
“This is shocking because it means the speaker did not only mislead the council but the citizens of eThekwini. It’s even worse that the mayor is still verifying the CIIU report,” he said.
In a media briefing on Thursday last week, Kaunda said he was verifying the existence of the report about Mbhele. In a follow-up question by the newspaper, the mayor claimed he has not been handed any CIIU reports. However, this response angered Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) chairperson Thami Xuma who said he was disturbed by the mayor’s utterances to not bother himself to either ask for the report from the CIIU or to approach his office since his committee had discussed the report and recommended that the Executive Committee (Exco) must act.
By virtue of being a mayor, Kaunda is chair of the Exco.
DA caucus leader councillor Thabani Mthethwa said his party was calling on the speaker and the mayor to urgently convene a council meeting to table a report regarding this matter.
“It cannot be allowed to remain hanging as it tarnishes the image of the municipality. Upon tabling the report, the council must then act in the interests of justice and the people of eThekwini. “If the city manager is facing a criminal case or has been charged, he must vacate office until such time that he is cleared,” Mthethwa stated.
IFP eThekwini leader Mdu Nkosi said that as the IFP, they want to see this matter unfolding in the council, and those implicated exposed – and then if they are implicated, that they must face the full might of the law.
“This goes to show that in eThekwini there is a big corruption war that we are facing as the residents, and we are grateful to the media for providing us with such information, that we were not privy to.
“We would like to see SAPS following up on this case and do proper investigations around it, without fear or favour.
“The IFP wants to get to the bottom of this matter. We knew that the official they were using as their shield had resigned, but now we have heard that there is a case against him.”
ActionSA KZN chairperson Zwakele Mncwango said that these are very serious allegations levelled against the city manager.
“We are calling for the mayor to bring charges against the city manager, in light of the CIIU’s affidavit. He must answer for these allegations. We cannot wait for internal processes if there is a case opened currently,” he said.
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