Chris Makhaye and Mlungisi Gumede – NewAge
About 300 shack dwellers marched to the Durban city centre yesterday demanding that eThekwini Mayor Obed Mlaba and city manager Michael Sutcliffe step aside pending a forensic investigation into reports of tender irregularities in the municipality.
Members of the Abahlali Basemjondolo, the shack dwellers movement, allege that both Sutcliffe and Mlaba or their families have been implicated in tender irregularities, so their continued presence in the municipality could jeopardise the investigation.
“We believe that the reason we are not getting houses is because Mlaba and Sutcliffe are only there to benefit themselves and their families.
“How can Mlaba lead an investigation when the city awarded tenders to companies owned by his own daughters?” said Abahlali’s general secretary, Bandile Mdlalose
Their call comes amid rumours that Sutcliffe has been suspended by Mlaba, but this was denied by reliable sources within the municipality.
Last week, MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs Nomusa Dube instituted a separate investigation following reports of massive fraud and corruption in municipal tender processes.
This followed the auditor-general’s report pinpointing irregular expenditure of R352m by the municipality in the 2009/2010 financial year.
Dube said the province decided to launch an investigation because there was a prima facie case of fraud and corruption, and promised an in depth probe into the ongoing allegations.
The MEC assured the public that the municipality was in a healthy financial state and there was no need to place it under administration.
“The eThekwini municipality is not collapsing, it is only these reports of fraud and corruption that are bringing it into disrepute,” she said.
“Civil or criminal cases will be brought against those who are found accountable for fraud and corruption,” she said. Dube also urged the city officials to cooperate with the investigators.
Opposition parties have welcomed the forensic investigation launched by Dube.
Minority Front councillor Patrick Pillay, an exco member in the municipality, said the probe was vital to root out corruption. “The ratepayers have to know how their money is spent,” said Pillay.
DA councillor Tex Collins echoed Pillay’s sentiments, saying the investigators should probe both the officials and councillors.
“At least 25 councillors are implicated in the allegations of fraud and corruption in the Auditor-General’s report,” said Collins.
Speaking to a TNA reporter yesterday, eThekwini municipality speaker James Nxumalo referred all queries to MEC Dube or Ethekwini ANC general secretary Sihle Zikalala, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.