Durban - A multi-million tender to supply a fleet of vehicles continues to be a divisive issue in the King Cetshwayo district municipality on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast.
The tender was issued around 2020 by the previous ANC administration, and it was meant to buy a fleet of vehicles to be used by the district municipality based in Richards Bay.
The fleet was to be used mainly in addressing issues of water and sanitation in the four local municipalities of Nkandla, Umlalazi (eShowe), Mthonjaneni (Melmoth) and the City of Mhlathuze (Richards Bay-Mpangeni).
However, the company which was appointed failed to deliver, as specified in their contract, prompting the Democratic Alliance (DA) to pile pressure on the administration of the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) to provide answers.
Last week, the DA caucus leader in the district municipality, Councillor Sihle Magubane, issued a statement where he demanded that the municipal manager, Philani Sibiya, must come clean over the tender.
Last week Friday, amid the furore over the tender, which is believed to have hampered service delivery, IOL spoke to the district mayor, Thami Ntuli, regarding the matter.
Ntuli lashed out, saying the DA, a key coalition partner of the IFP in the municipality, was not being honest.
He claimed that what triggered the DA’s statement was the fact that they gave an opportunity to a black-owned company.
He said the company which was awarded the tender, when it failed to deliver, it was able to produce a letter from the manufacturer to show that the supply problem was due to Covid-19.
“The previous company, a white-owned company which had been assisting, was stopped. That is where the DA councillor complained.
“And then, to us, the issue is not that something went wrong with the appointment of the company, there is no wrong the previous administration did, and there is nothing wrong that there was a delay in the manufacturing of the cars. But I think the issue with the DA is that a black-owned company was accommodated, understood. The municipality took an approach of saying, because of Covid issues, you could not provide. I think it’s an attitude towards the black-owned companies. That is what we have, in fact, concluded,” Ntuli told IOL.
However, Magubane is not backing down. On Tuesday, he told IOL that Ntuli’s party was failing the basic duty of accounting, and he was making this a race issue when it was not.
“It is quite disappointing that the mayor has decided to take this position. This is political grandstanding, and it avoids the questions and the circumstances that brought about the statement.
“The IFP administration is accountable to the council through systems put in place by the standing orders, and the reality is the IFP has totally collapsed governing systems in the council.
“Motions don’t get responded to, written questions don’t get responded to. This matter regarding the fleet contract was put to the portfolio through a written question in July,” he said.
Magubane added that the administration avoided this question until they were backed into a corner. All they wanted to know was how a company without the capacity won the tender in the first place.
“There is other questions also that has not been responded to, and then when we go to the media with those, are they gonna do the same thing and bring about race?
“This is nothing to do with race. It is actually disappointing that the IFP would resort to making questions of accountability about race because it’s deflective and it avoids the serious questions that need to be responded to.”