Sibusiso Sithole, centre, has appointed administrator to help improve the Msunduzi Municipality. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Pietermaritzburg - KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Sipho Hlomuka has condemned the explosion at Msunduzi Municipality, saying no amount of intimidation would deter attempts to clean up the KZN capital. 

His comment came in the wake of an explosion that occurred on Monday bringing a swift end to a council meeting. 

"This is an act of terrorism, pure and simple. We cannot allow unknown assailants to paralyse our local government institutions and intimidate our officials and the general public. 

"What happened in Pietermaritzburg today has no place in a civilised society," Hlomuka said on Monday evening. 

Hlomuka committed the department's full support to the municipality until it is restored to full functionality. "We will continue to support Msunduzi municipality and everyone who is serious about restoring it to full functionality. 

"The administration of the municipality remains in place until there is tangible improvement in Msunduzi's fortunes," the MEC continued.  

He has now called for an urgent investigation into the incident and urged city officials to "take the necessary safety precautions going forward".

"We will not be intimidated by actions of individuals who seek to create chaos and sow discord. Our role is to support municipalities in this province and this is what we will continue to do," Hlomuka said. 

Msunduzi Municipality was placed under administration in April after it had problems in governance that affected service delivery in and around Pietermaritzburg.

Sibusiso Sithole the former city manager in eThekwini was appointed administrator along with department officials to help improve the municipality.

Democratic Alliance councillor Sibongiseni Majola, who sits less than a metre away from the entrance at Council Chambers where the explosion occurred, said he was shocked when he heard the explosion. 

"I was on the podium during the meeting when there was this loud bang. My initial thought was that a gun from one of the security officials had gone off, but then I saw this smoke coming through the door and that is when we got scared," Majola  said.

Monday's meeting was part of a workshop where Sithole was presenting his confidential turnaround plan for the city. The plan is said to have laid bare the problems that led to the near collapse of the municipality and fingered some officials and called for harsh action against wrongdoers.    

Security officials stationed at council confirmed hearing the heavy sound in the building. They blamed inadequate security which they said places people, including officials and councillors, at risk. 

"There are no scanners here and we do not conduct body searches on individuals, that is why people can come in with dangerous items," one officer said.

According to ANC Moses Mabhida Regional Task Team member Mzi Tebolla, the incident shows an agenda to make the municipality ungovernable. 

"We don't know why people would do this when there is so much effort made at making Msunduzi the kind of municipality that all of us can be proud of," Tebolla said. He said it was a relief that no had been injured in the incident.

Police confirmed the incident. The explosives unit was summoned to the scene after a loud bang was heard at City Hall. Nothing was found and no case was opened. No injuries or damages reported,  said police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala. 

The incident took place just days after reports started circulating about threats made against Sithole.   

African News Agency (ANA)