Durban - eThekwini Municipality councillors arrested by the Hawks yesterday allegedly put pressure on a contractor responsible for collecting refuse in uMlazi to subcontract some of the work to companies they had an interest in.
The charges relate to a R208million “dirty” Durban Solid Waste contract scam for which other municipal employees have already been charged.
In the dock of the Durban Commercial Crimes Court yesterday were councillors Nomthandazo Shabalala, from ward 87, Nomusa Mthembu, from ward 81, Sithenjwa Nyawose, from ward 79 and Thembelihle de Lange, from ward 85. They were released on R5000 bail and are due back in court on April 7 next year.
They were charged alongside three contractors, Noxolo Ngcobo, a subcontractor in ward 81, SM Radebe a sub-contractor in ward 79 and SS Ntsele, a sub-contractor in ward 85. They were also released on bail of R5000.
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said the suspects were apprehended following a year-long investigation by the Hawks’ Clean Audit Task Team for allegedly receiving gratifications, money laundering, fraud, contravention the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) and Municipal Systems Act.
“The four councillors and the three contractors are implicated in the R208m Durban Solid Waste tender scandal. Today’s arrests brings to 22 the total number of people implicated and arrested thus far. There is one outstanding suspect who is still being sought.Investigations are ongoing,” he said.
On the MFMA charge, the State alleges that the councillors had directed or facilitated the outcome of the award of contracts to subcontractors thereby interfering with the functions of the municipality.
It was also alleged they had interfered with the management or operations of a municipality and interfered with the supply chain management system of a municipality.
Regarding the fraud charge, it was alleged that Shabalala and others misrepresented to the municipality that the entities being subcontracted - Mcebezeli Trading, Sashongwana, Nokuyeka Trading, Masilindele Trading - were independent of each other and were entitled to receive contracts to render services to the municipality in ward 87.
It said Shabalala, by virtue of being a councillor, facilitated or oversaw the appointment of sub-contractors to the main contractor, Uzuzinekele Trading, who had been appointed to render a refuse removal service.
It said this made Uzuzinekele lawfully entitled to make payments to these sub-contractors.
This, said the State, had caused prejudice to the municipality to the tune of R216000, prejudiced the good governance of the municipality and the suppliers in the municipality’s database who had been excluded from the procurement process.
Similar allegations were levelled against the other councillors.
The State also alleged the accused had engaged in money laundering in that they had shared in proceeds of unlawful activity because the tender had been unlawful and irregularly awarded to the service providers.
The State also charged eight staff members at the eThekwini Weighbridge with fraud for falsifying invoices which indicated the amount of refuse that was collected by contractors.
The weighbridge officials were alleged to have issued fraudulent invoices that prejudiced the municipality to the tune of R44m. It was alleged that the officials fraudulently recorded the number of times the waste dumping had occurred.
DA councillor Nicole Graham said the party welcomed the arrests. “Four arrests is good progress but it’s a drop in the ocean considering how much corruption exists,” she said.
IFP leader Mdu Nkosi said the arrests were just the first step. “People of uMlazi have been complaining about the issues of pollution and now we know the people they voted for to bring development are the ones depriving them of that.”
EThekwini Municipality said it noted the arrests and would co-operate with the law enforcement institutions.