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Concern over eThekwini Municipality office burglary, files and computers stolen

Another serious security breach has rocked eThekwini Municipality, as its human resources (HR) office, which houses personal information on staff recruitment, was broken into on Tuesday night.

Durban City Hall. File Picture

Published May 5, 2022

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DURBAN - ANOTHER serious security breach has rocked eThekwini Municipality, as its human resources (HR) office, which houses personal information on staff recruitment, was broken into on Tuesday night.

The break-in, which took place at Shell House building in the Durban CBD, was allegedly caught on camera and investigators are scouring the footage in an attempt to identify the culprits.

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Sources aware of the burglary said the criminals allegedly stole computers and files.

The break-in and the targeting of computer equipment at the HR office has led to speculation as to the motive for the crime. The city is currently engaged in a recruitment process to fill the vacant position of city manager.

Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela confirmed the break-in.

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“At the moment we are busy doing an assessment of what was damaged by the intruders and we are requesting to be given space to do our internal assessment. The matter is also with the police.”

Mayisela said at present the city views the break-in as a purely criminal act. However, he said the city was concerned about this intrusion.

He said no HR process had been derailed by the incident and the municipality was committed to delivering services to its residents.

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Police spokesperson LieutenantColonel Nqobile Gwala said a case of burglary was being investigated by Durban Central police. She said six laptops were taken from different offices as well as vehicle keys.

The break-in is the latest in a series of security breaches this year alone that have shocked staff and councillors, leading to at least two employees being shot dead at the workplace.

Earlier this year, Amos Ngcobo, an official in the water unit based at the city’s Springfield offices, was shot dead inside his office. One person has been arrested in connection with the murder.

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Last month, Phumzile Qatha was shot dead at the city’s depot in Ottawa. She was in charge of managing water tankers that were being sent to areas that needed water following the floods.

Councillors yesterday questioned the level of security being provided to municipal buildings and personnel.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi, who visited the building shortly after the news of the break-in emerged, said the numerous security breaches had the potential of putting off skilled professionals from taking up a job with the municipality.

“The information we are getting is that it seems the person who did this was a person who knew exactly what they were looking for, they went directly for the documents and the computers to get whatever information they wanted.

“It is concerning that this happened – if people could target sensitive municipal information so easily, it makes one question what is the use of the cameras and the equipment that we pay a fortune for,” he said.

Nkosi said a thorough investigation should be conducted. “This is not the first time there have been serious security lapses, when it comes to security we have seen people getting killed in their offices because of security breaches. This is going to make staff members in eThekwini fearful of coming to work and it’s going to make people who are skilled reluctant to come and work for this municipality,” said Nkosi.

EFF councillor Thabane Miya said they had not been made aware of the break-in. “It is quite clear that security is very poor there, people are getting shot at work and now offices are broken into, we do not know why security is so poor as there are people who are getting paid to prevent this from happening.”

DA councillor Nicole Graham also said they had not been made aware of the break-in.

“It is very concerning, we obviously don’t have full information at this stage and I think that the general problem here is that violence is an instrument in the city, which is a big concern. I will follow up and ask for details in terms of what is happening with security in the city.”

Xolani Dube of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union said they would follow up on the incident.

“HR carries a lot of sensitive staff information and it will not sit well with us if that has been compromised. The break-in could be an act of criminality or it could be a targeted act with a specific purpose.”

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