“BRING in the Hawks immediately and let them be arrested.”
This was the passionate plea made by visiting parliamentarian Tunka Matila at the Winston Churchill Theatre yesterday after the suspension of senior managers and councillors who allegedly played a role in the near demise of the Msunduzi Municipality.
Matila is one of four members of a delegation from Parliament’s select committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs who were in Pietermaritzburg on an oversight visit to assess the progress of the municipal intervention.
He said it is surprising that no one has been arrested for corruption and that managers are on suspension on full pay when the municipality is struggling financially.
“Why was the mayor removed? Why were those councillors removed?
“If it’s because they were corrupt, then they must go to jail,” the lawmaker said.
Matila told the provincial intervention team that bringing criminal and civil charges should be its number one priority and slow-moving forensic investigations must be stopped because they drain municipal coffers.
“You’ve been here for six months and all we’ve heard is ‘We’re investigating’,” he said.
Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler said some cases are ready for prosecution and the Hawks have already been contacted.
He said “those criminal cases will become public very soon” and the intervention team has every intention of recovering stolen funds.
There have been 13 suspensions and 15 criminal proceedings, and four cases are awaiting disciplinary action, said Mettler.
Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr said the disciplinary cases will be dealt with in co-operation with the premier’s office.
Tarr said he is very concerned because Mettler and investigating team member Ben Dorfling, the driving force behind “Operation Pitbull”, are scheduled to leave next month.
The rest of the team is contracted until this Sunday and some problem areas still need addressing.
Committee chair Matome Mokgobi said the oversight team will strongly recommend that the intervention be extended.
But Mokgobi did not mince his words when he realised that fewer than half of the municipality’s 73 councillors were present.
He and the other parliamentarians emphasised the need to employ skilled staff.
“As you go forward, it is important to employ the right people,” he said.
Parliamentarian Armiston Watson said employing people not skilled to do the job is wasting money.
Matile urged the team to make sure people with the necessary skills are employed, “otherwise you won’t be able to deliver”.
Watson questioned whether Msunduzi Municipality should have an executive committee earning executive salaries while it is under administration.
The way he understood it, he said, an intervention means that the mayor hands over his executive powers to the administrator.
So if the mayor does not have executive power, he should not have an executive committee.
Watson said Exco members earn more than ordinary councillors.
They should therefore revert to the status of ordinary councillors, thus saving the municipality some money.
Mettler said an average of 6 000 water and electricity meters are not read in a given month.
He said his team is not happy with the current service providers and is exploring options to ensure that meter reading takes place.
The more than 60 councillors who were not present at the oversight visit by the lawmakers from Cape Town will have to write letters of apology to Parliament.
Mokgobi instructed Msunduzi speaker Babu Baijoo and chief whip Truman Magubane to make sure this happens. “Tell them Parliament is angry at their absence,” he said.
Makgobi said Msunduzi needs councillors who can provide leadership and who must be accountable to their communities.
“How can they report back to their communities when they are not here?” he asked.