This week, the alleged cabal was arrested and appeared in court.
The State claimed that city officials Robert Abbu, the deputy head of Durban Solid Waste, and the deputy head of Supply Chain Management Unit, Sandile Ngcobo, used their influence to direct at least 58 fraudulent works orders to four Durban companies that were part of their cabal.
The implicated companies were paid exclusively to remove waste material and illegal dumping deposits in townships around the city.
According to the charge sheet, Abbu and Ngcobo worked together and legitimised numerous street cleaning and illegal dumping contracts which were circulated only among the four companies.
The companies included Ilanga La Mahlase, Uzuzinekela Trading 31 CC, Omphile Thabang Projects and El Shaddai Holdings Group CC.
El Shaddai was awarded 15 contracts, collectively valued at R37m, Ilanga’s share was also 15 contracts worth R64m, 14 contracts worth R48m was directed to Omphile and Uzuzinekela got 14 tenders with a collective value of R79m.
To prevent competition, only the four companies were invited to tender for the services the city required, which was contrary to the municipality’s supply chain management policies.
Invoices submitted by the companies for the contracts were therefore regarded as “lawful” and the municipality was “liable” to make payouts.
It was said in court that the other beneficiaries of the cartel’s fraudulent activities included 62 councillors and the Delangokubona Business Forum, which received substantial payouts.
With the investigations, which are being led by the Directorate of Priority Crimes (Hawks), into the cartel’s activities set to continue for at least another eight months, the State hinted that more arrests were expected, including of other senior city officials.
Led by Colonel Frans Mphaki, the Hawks’ National Clean Audit Task Team (NCATT), which comprised members mainly based outside KwaZulu-Natal, arrested nine people on Tuesday.
The other accused, who were mostly linked to the four companies, were Mzwandile Dludla, Hlenga Sibisi, Sinthamone Ponnan, Sithulele Mkhize, Bongani Dlomo, Khoboso Dlomo and Prabagaran Pariah.
They were also warned to make R100000 available for bail when they reported at the Durban Central police station on Tuesday morning.
They then appeared before Magistrate Dawn Soomaroo at Durban’s Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
She granted Dludla, Ponnan, Mkhize, Bongani Dlomo, and Pariah R50000 bail each, while Khoboso Dlomo’s bail was set at R30000.
Prosecutor Ashika Lucken objected to bail for Abbu, Ngcobo and Sibisi, saying they were likely to intimidate and threaten witnesses.
Lucken said the city’s Integrity Investigations Unit (CIIU) began to probe contracts linked to the cartel in 2018 and payments were stopped.
Abbu had allegedly threatened to have subordinates dismissed if they did not provide information on the CIIU’s investigations.
Sibisi, who was Ilanga’s project manager, visited municipal offices and allegedly threatened municipal employees after payments stopped.
Lucken also said that the head of the CIIU Mbuso Ngcobo, was “absent from work” because he was under pressure to disclose details of his investigation. “That is why we affected the arrests before the investigations were completed.”
Soomaroo commented: “These are serious allegations. Why has there not been any action from senior people in the municipality?”
“It relates to the capture of the municipality,” Lucken responded.
When the case resumed on Thursday, Abbu denied threatening staff.
Sibisi refused to respond when asked whether he or his company paid councillors but said Delangokubona was paid R10 000.
Mphaki said he made the arrests “prematurely” because witnesses were being intimidated.
Soomaroo granted Abbu, Ngcobo and Sibisi R50000 bail but ordered certain conditions be met, including their not entering municipal buildings.
Ngcobo and Abbu are not allowed to interact with subordinates but report to supervisors, while Sibisi must nominate a representative to handle his company’s interaction with the city.
The matter was adjourned to August 8.