Theft of street light fittings was an inside job – city official

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 22, 2023


Durban — A preliminary report revealed possible collusion between the eThekwini Municipality’s electricity department staff and the two suspects arrested at the Mozambican border last week for the theft of street light fittings identified as the property of the municipality.

Maxwell Mthembu, the City’s Electricity head, told the Daily News that an internal investigation had pointed to an organised syndicate operating with internal and external people to steal the critical infrastructure.

Mthembu said his department had obtained information that the 52 street light fittings were ordered from the City storage facility by electricity department staff to be fitted in the areas where there were no street lights.

However, the goods did not reach their intended destination and ended up in a scrapyard in Clermont where the two Mozambicans allegedly collected them to smuggle them out of the country. He said the lights had been delivered by the manufacturer in August.

Mthembu said it was suspicious that the officials who had requested the goods from the stores department had not reported any hijacking or theft before the goods were intercepted by Kosi Bay border police, who arrested the suspects.

He said investigators were busy collecting records of the officials who had signed the requisition forms for the goods to be removed from the storage facility.

He revealed that from Clermont, the goods were transported using a bakkie that belonged to a person living in KwaDukuza, who was not arrested with the suspects. This suggested that this could be a syndicate involving several players.

It was initially reported that the value of the lights was R1.8 million but the figure has since been corrected to just over R150 000.

Last week, the City suspended an employee from the water and sanitation unit who was allegedly caught stealing municipal cables. The video of an employee seen stealing the cables had been circulating on social media. The City confirmed that he was indeed a municipal worker.

Reacting to the theft of the street light fittings, opposition parties in the City had raised suspicions that the suspects could have been assisted by people inside the City and called for an internal probe. Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda also suspected that it could be an inside job, and vowed to root out corrupt activities in the municipality.

Meanwhile, the City has succeeded in its attempt to transfer the street lights theft case from the Manguzi Magistrate’s Court to Durban.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations in KwaZulu-Natal (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, confirmed that the case had been transferred to Durban.

Hawks provincial spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Simphiwe Mhlongo said the city had opened its case in Sydenham, therefore the two dockets had been combined and the two suspects would appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court today (Wednesday).

Mhlongo said the city argued that the goods were stolen here and were found in the possession of the suspects in Manguzi. The two appeared in Manguzi for a bail application but Mhlongo said the issue of bail would not be entertained for now as they would be making their first appearance in Durban for the new case opened by the City.

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