Durban – The acting mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Fawzia Peer, has said that laboratory results on a water bottle that had allegedly been laced with a substance that smelled like paraffin, and which she had sipped from, had come back clear.
Peer was speaking to African News Agency (ANA) after a sitting of the executive committee at Durban City Hall on Tuesday.
“[The speaker has sent an email to me] and I have just found out now that the water is clear. It shocks me that the water is clear and [the testing] was done internally, and that another sample was not sent to [an outside laboratory],” said Peer.
Earlier in the day, council speaker William Mapena had refused to confirm with ANA that the results had been finalised and had tested negative for any added substance.
Paraffin was allegedly added to Peer’s water bottle at a full council sitting at city hall late last month. She sipped from the bottle before leaving the meeting and being rushed to hospital.
Speaker Mapena told councillors at that meeting not to drink the bottled water, as it appeared someone’s water had been laced with “paraffin”.
The bottle was taken for testing at eThekwini’s municipal laboratory and Peer returned to work the following day after being treated for burns to her lips, tongue and throat.
“I think we have learnt from this incident that the way the bottle [was tested] was not done well. But we have learnt from our mistakes,” Peer told ANA.
She said the police told her that they should have been called “immediately” to retrieve the bottle, seal it and take it for testing.
Four people had smelled the water on the day of the incident, said Peer.
“The chief whip (ANC councillor Nelly Nyanisa) was the first person. I gave her the bottle and said to her ‘it’s burning my mouth’. She smelled it and said ‘put it down, it's paraffin’,” said Peer.
“The chief whip then gave it to councillor Sipho Kaunda, because we all sit together, and then councillor Barbara Fontein. Each one smelled the paraffin. The speaker then asked what the commotion was about. The bottle was passed to the speaker, he smelled it and made an announcement that no one should drink the water.”
At the time of the incident, ANA had been told by a few city employees that Peer was “a drama queen”, something she admitted to knowing about on Tuesday.
“To some people it’s a joke, it’s a laughing matter...but I am terrified,” she said. “I have to take proper care now of what I drink and what I eat. I buy my own food and I carry my own water bottle, which may sound a bit silly.”
Someone was reviewing camera footage of the day of the incident, she said.
An investigating officer had also been sent to interview her by the provincial police commissioner, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, she said.
“The investigating officer took a statement from me, he also took the remains of the water and he has the medical report,” said Peer.
Peer is acting in place of mayor Zandile Gumede, who has been placed on leave by the ANC after being charged with graft relating to a R208 million Durban Solid Waste tender from 2016.