Umzimkhulu hall refurbishment linked to Sindiso Magaqa murder
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Former ANC youth league general secretary Magaqa died after being shot in 2017, allegedly for questioning why so little work had been done on refurbishing the Umzimkhulu Memorial Hall after millions of rands had been paid to contractors.
Initially a R4 million contract was awarded to give the hall a facelift. Five years later, in 2017, the cost of the project had escalated to R16m but the work was still incomplete.
Magaqa was at the time a councillor in Umzimkhulu municipality, which falls under the Harry Gwala district municipality, and wanted answers.
According to his close friend, ANC councillor Les Stuta, Magaqa called for an internal investigation and openly claimed that rampant corruption was rife in Umzimkhulu.
Stuta also testified at the Moerane commission of inquiry tasked with investigating political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Look at the refurbishment and compare the money spent on it. It is clear that corruption was the order of the day in this project. Corruption continues presently in Umzimkhulu,” said Stuta.
Initially, the project was awarded to Loyiso Consultants Civils. The company had already been paid R10m when a second contractor, Buyeye Construction, was appointed in 2016 to complete the work.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane launched a probe into the failed project last year and found that there were irregularities in how the contracts were awarded to Loyiso Consultants Civils and Buyeye Construction.
Directors of the companies could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Umzimkhulu resident Themba Mkhulisi said of Magaqa: “He is a hero who fought the masterminds of corruption in Umzimkhulu and we will always honour him for that.”
Two weeks ago three men, including the mayor of Harry Gwala district municipality, Mluleki Ndobe, were arrested in connection with Magaqa’s murder.
However, charges against Ndobe, who at the time of Magaqa’s murder was an Umzimkhulu councillor, were provisionally withdrawn on Monday due to a lack of evidence.
The fact that Ndobe was taken to court with insufficient evidence linking him to Magaqa’s murder raised the ire of the head of National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi.
She asked for a report from the director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal on what had led to the matter being brought to court.
On Thursday, when questioned about Ndobe’s case at a media briefing on political killings in Durban, Police Minister Bheki Cele said: “I cannot deal with a single person in isolation and ignore the other people who were arrested with him.”