Taxpayers and the residents of the Zululand district municipality have survived an organised attempt to steal municipal funds by unknown criminals.
This was confirmed by municipal manager Ntokozo Hlongwa, who responded to Independent Media’s query following a public statement issued by the EFF in KwaZulu-Natal alleging that the funds had been withdrawn from the municipality’s account by mayor Thulasizwe Buthelezi.
On Tuesday, the EFF alleged that the funds had disappeared from the municipal account and called for a forensic investigation into Buthelezi’s bank accounts.
“We note with huge concern that such a huge amount of money can miraculously disappear from the municipal account, without anyone noticing anything.
“This is a serious violation of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), and an indication of a serious lack of consequence management with people looting public funds and getting away with murder.”
The party called for Buthelezi’s removal, stating that his party, the “Inkatha Freedom Party was on a mission to loot municipal funds, to fund their manifesto rally which will take place at Moses Mabhida Stadium”.
In response to the allegations of the alleged missing funds, Hlongwa dismissed the allegations and said the funds were safe.
“The statement released by the EFF in KZN about an amount of R33 million that is allegedly missing from the municipality's coffers is false and has no basis of truth.
“It is another desperate and futile attempt to derail Zululand’s unparalleled record of service delivery led by Mayor Thulasizwe Buthelezi.”
Hlongwa said that on December 27, he was alerted by the Absa Anti-Fraud Unit that someone attempted to access the municipal bank account.
“An internal investigation by Absa is currently under way and a criminal case was opened at Ulundi police station.
“No funds were lost through this incident. We will wait for the final investigation on this matter,” said Hlongwa.
In 2021, Buthelezi returned as a mayor after the local government elections with the help of the EFF’s Thulani Ndlovu, who was elected to the deputy mayor’s position.
Since then, Buthelezi has had no peace facing various allegations which he has described as a “smear campaign” that started in 2017 when he took over as the mayor.
Last year, an email accusing him of sexual harassment emerged. The email was purportedly written by an unknown woman who claimed to be an employee of the district municipality.
The email was sent to various government departments, including Social Development, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), the Presidency, and municipal labour unions like Imatu and Samwu.
“I am a young lady employed by the Zululand District Municipality and I am writing this letter out of desperation, distress, and despondency.
“I find myself in a difficult position where I am forced to sleep with the mayor against my will in order to keep my work.
“I find myself having sex with him because he wields massive power (he usually tells me that he will crush my career) and abuses his power over me and other ladies that I would prefer not to name because of the sensitivity of this issue,” the employee alleged in the email.
However, Buthelezi denied all the allegations, arguing that he was a victim of a smear campaign involving a broad collection of forces opposed to him, including his party.
“I encourage all those who have grievances to approach Cogta and the law enforcement agencies,” Buthelezi said.
He added that his character is known to many and he would be happy to have the matter investigated and put to bed once and for all.
“People who know me and those who work with me know what kind of person I am. This is a smear campaign being peddled by the ANC provincial secretary and NFP councillors in Zululand. I would welcome any investigation into the said allegations,” he added.
Following the allegations, female employees wrote letters to Buthelezi pledging their support and also calling those who claimed to be victims to come forward.