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Durban resident explains what happened in clash with city officials over “theft” of donated goods

Plastic bin bags filled with donated goods are seen on a municipal vehicle at Virginia Airport. Picture: Screengrab from video

Plastic bin bags filled with donated goods are seen on a municipal vehicle at Virginia Airport. Picture: Screengrab from video

Published Apr 18, 2022

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DURBAN - A Durban resident has said she will be meeting with municipal officials after eThekwini Municipality staff attempted to remove donated goods from the Virginia Airport.

The goods had been donated by businesses and residents of Durban North and surrounding areas to help communities that have been hard hit by the floods.

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The municipality, however, said the goods were not being illegally removed but were being taken by workers from the community participation unit to be delivered to one of the townships.

One of the residents, Vanessa Knight, chairperson of the Ward 36 residents’ association, recorded a confrontation with the municipal staffers over the removal of the goods.

In the video, a truck and a bakkie are trying to leave the premises with the goods.

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The bakkie is filled with black plastic bags that are loaded with donated items. The bakkie has NDM licence plates which are the official municipal vehicle licence plates.

Knight said after the confrontation, the vehicles brought back all the items that had been taken and the staff said it had been taken by mistake.

“When I learnt that they were trying to take the items, I blocked them with my car and I went a little crazy, as you can see in the video,” Knight told The Mercury.

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She said the goods, which included food items such as fruits and vegetables, as well as toiletries, nappies and water purifiers, had been donated by the community and business and had been packed as rescue care packages that were destined for flood-hit communities.

She said some of the goods were being airlifted to remote rural communities that were no longer accessible by road because of flood damage.

Knight said staff members from the municipality came and took these items, apparently because they were taking them to its health unit and for testing.

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Knight said watching the donated goods being carted off had upset her.

“There was no way that I was going to let them take donations that people had trusted me with to god knows where.”

She said she will be meeting with municipal officials today.

“They are opposed to me saying they were stealing the goods, but if you remove items without permission, what is that called, I do not know any other word,” she said.

Mayoral spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa would say only that officials were tasked with distributing aid to temporary shelters around the city and Virginia Airport was a drop-off site.

The municipality said it had “become aware of a video claiming that one of our employees is stealing donated goods.

“The driver was not stealing. She is one of our employees in the community participation unit and is assigned to deliver donations to one of the townships. We can also confirm reports that some of residents are insisting that their donated goods be delivered to areas of their choice and typically the areas they dictate are not the most impacted.

“It is unfortunate that the employee in question has had her reputation tarnished in this manner. We call upon the public to desist from creating and spreading fake news.”

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