ALLEGATIONS that the bankrupt Nquthu Municipality is funding a two-week trip to Belgium for four of its municipal officials has set tongues wagging.
In October last year, representatives from the Bornem Municipality in Belgium visited Nquthu and signed a three-year city-to-city co-operation agreement.
Nquthu, in turn, accepted an invitation to an eight-member delegation from the Bornem Municipality as part of the agreement. Problems arose when the cash-strapped Nquthu Municipality did not have the money to send all eight delegates on the trip and a request for funding was made to the uMzinyathi District Municipality.
A well-placed source on the district council said it was resolved that the district would fund two delegates from the Nquthu Municipality and two delegates from the district municipality. At a full council meeting for the Nquthu Municipality in February, it was decided that district mayor Mbangiseni Yengwa and district municipal manager Sipho Dubazana would accompany the six Nquthu Municipality representatives so they could ascertain how residents of Nquthu would benefit from the agreement. According to the source, the cost of the trip is at least R80 000.
UMzinyathi District mayor Mbangiseni Yengwa said he knew nothing about funding two Nquthu Municipality delegates to go to Belgium. “We can only afford to pay for a plane ticket for one person at a cost of R7 000,” he said.
A conflicting statement was given by Nquthu Municipality mayor Bongani Mazibuko, who claimed the entire trip would be funded by the Belgians. He said he knew nothing about the request made to the district for funds and directed The Witness to municipal manager Bonginkosi Gumbi. Attempts to get a response from Gumbi were unsuccessful by the time of going to print.
The district council source said he fails to understand the actions of both municipalities.
“uMzinyathi is given extra money by the government to address poverty and social issues but instead they are wasting money on overseas trips. Nquthu is bankrupt and can barely provide basic services for its residents. This is not right,” he said.
The Nquthu Municipality has made headlines in recent months. It is alleged that they are surviving on a bank overdraft and are widely regarded as one of the poorest performing municipalities in Kwa-Zulu-Natal, coming last out of 61 municipalities in a recent survey.