WATCH: eThekwini spends R70m to guard councillors in 3 months amid political killings
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Durban - As political killings rise across KwaZulu-Natal ahead of the local government elections, the province’s only metro, eThekwini, has revealed that it has spent R70 million to guard councillors whose lives are under threat.
The eThekwini metro was recently singled out by Police Minister Bheki Cele as one of the epicentres of political killings in the country.
Taking part in an event dubbed the “hot seat”, hosted in Durban by the ANC yesterday (Monday) and meant to provide a platform to grill the party about its municipalities, the metro’s mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, said there is no denying that the region is the worst affected by the scourge.
He did not say exactly how many councillors have been provided with bodyguards, only that they felt they had the duty to protect them even before the SAPS was done with its security threat assessments.
Kaunda’s was responding to media questions about exactly how many councillors are enjoying municipal-funded protection and at what cost.
“When I was still the MEC for community safety and liaison, I was approached by the (then) speaker (William Mapena) of the municipality saying can you assist us to really expedite the issue of threat assessments.
“I think that’s where the challenge is, the SAPS do not have the capacity adequate to assess councillors, I am sure all municipalities have met a similar challenge of delays when it comes to that. In the whole province, there were only three people designated to conduct threat assessments.
WATCH: EThekwini municipality mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, says in the recent past, they have spent R70 million to provide bodyguards to councillors who are under threat. He said the SAPS is very slow in conducting threat assessments on vulnerable councillors. @IOL #ANCKZNHotSeat pic.twitter.com/byIPwFPICq— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) October 25, 2021
“So as a city we decided that we can’t wait for those assessments. Therefore, a report must be made to the police and the council received that report through the speaker’s office, then we start(ed) providing security because no one can deny that in eThekwini many politicians have been killed, included the recent one of the candidate of the ANC (Siya Mkhize of Cato Manor) in ward 101.
“So you can’t have a municipality that folds its hands. For the period from July to September, we have spent about R70 million in that quarter alone. So that shows the mandate of investing when it comes to security.
“But we are putting in place a policy to be approved by the new administration. They will assess it and approve it so that we have a clear guidance in terms of who becomes a beneficiary of these packages of security in the municipality,” Kaunda responded.
Also taking part in the panel was Mhlathuze (Mpangeni-Richards Bay) mayor; Mdu Mhlongo, Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg) mayor; Mzi Thebolla, Ugu district mayor; Sizwe Ngcobo and Mlungisi Ndlangisa, the mayor of Okhahlamba (Bergville) and Bheki Mtolo of Kokstad.
Collectively, the ANC mayors stuttered and struggled to provide coherent answers about failures in their municipalities.
Instead, almost all the mayors placed the blame over their failure to provide basic water and sanitation services on rapid urbanisation.
Pietermaritzburg, the provincial capital, is known for its decaying central business district, uncollected waste and constant water and power cuts. Thebolla said they are working on turning the corner.
Ngcobo blamed the years-long and perennial water cuts that have crippled the resort towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Port Shepstone on vandalism and ageing infrastructure while dealing with massive rural to urban areas migration.
A similar excuse was made by Kaunda when he was grilled about eThekwini’s failure to provide houses and proper sanitation, mainly in formerly black townships.