Ward 17 ANC councillor Mphilisi Ndlovu could be in trouble with his party based on his recent WhatsApp status that is viewed by some as inciting violence against municipal employees.
In the status, Ndlovu tells Unit EE, Phase 3 and 4 in Imbali not to allow municipal meter readers into their yards when they arrive for meter readings.
Noma bangafika ngezimoto zakaMASPALA ngoba anikaze nitshelwe lutho ngakho and nami angazi lutho ngakho. UMA BENENKANI NIBABAMBE NIBAQINISE ZE BAZOFUNDA (I) NHLONIPHO.
The message is loosely translated as: “Even if they arrive in municipal [branded] vehicles because no one has told you about people who will arrive to read meters and I also know nothing about it. If they are stubborn, beat them up.”
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Ndlovu denied that his message is inciting violence towards municipal employees.
He said that due to home robberies where government vehicles are used, he could not keep quiet.
At the same time, he said that people felt uneasy about unknown people who arrived at their houses claiming to be municipal meter readers.
I am not aware of this meter reading drive in my ward. The first point of call, when you bring something new into a ward, is to consult the councillor. Last week, people in my ward asked me about municipal employees who arrived at their homes claiming to have been sent to read meters. I could not give them answers because I was not aware of this.
“Residents are easily robbed by people who claim to be from government entities, sent to perform a certain service. There have been reported cases of homeowners who got robbed by people in municipal clothing, driving municipal, police, or even departmental vehicles. I could not expose people in my ward to that danger.”
He said he contacted the municipal manager Lulamile Mapholoba for clarity on the meter reading programme, but the attempt for clarity was unsuccessful.
“The municipal manager (MM) agreed to send a team to brief me and the people in the ward on [last] Tuesday, but when I called on [last] Monday to confirm the time, the MM [Mapholoba] said he could not make it because there was a council meeting on Tuesday and his team would be in attendance. I didn’t know what to tell the people because I had already told them that they would be addressed on this matter and that’s why I said they should not allow anyone to access their homes for meter reading,” he said.
The allegations made by Ndlovu were put to the municipal manager for comment.
MM condemns Ndlovu’s message
Mapholoba said the message circulating via social media platforms was shocking.
The message, which could be interpreted as inciting violence against municipal employees, is strongly condemned. The matter has been reported to the speaker for her intervention and she will be dealing with it accordingly. The municipality is currently clamping down on water and electricity theft. There are programmes in place that include meter audits, and replacement of meters and, as part of revenue enhancement, the municipality is working on improving the accuracy of billing.
“This includes the monthly reading of meters to ensure that customers are billed for their current consumption. The meeting mentioned by councillor Ndlovu took place [on Thursday] last week. Councillors are expected to enable and support municipal employees to do their work in the communities as employees are there on council business,” said Mapholoba.
He said residents have an obligation to grant municipal employees access to their properties as refusing access will result in customers being billed on estimates instead of actual readings, which will lead to under- or overbilling of customers.
“Failure to grant access will also result in disconnection of services. Employees will be carrying identification cards in order to ensure their safety and the safety of the residents. The aim of the municipality is to ensure accurate accounts for all customers, improve the billing, and ultimately enhance revenue in order to be able to deliver services to the communities,” he said.
City to meet with Ndlovu for clarity
Msunduzi speaker Eunice Majola said they are planning to meet with Ndlovu to get clarity on the reason for his message.
“I will meet with the municipality’s political leadership first, and then we will arrange to meet with the councillor for him to tell us what informed his message. I don’t think that he can differentiate between duties that municipal employees can or cannot do with or without informing the ward councillor. There are daily administrative duties that are performed like the meter reading. The city is serious about coming up with various measures to boost its revenue and meter reading and Operation Qoqimali are just some of those measures,” said Majola.
She said a date to meet with Ndlovu will be determined by her meeting with the rest of the political leadership of the municipality.
Opposition parties call for Ndlovu to be charged
Meanwhile, opposition parties have called for Ndlovu to be charged with inciting violence.
IFP chairperson in uMgungundlovu and Msunduzi councillor Thinasonke Ntombela said it was reckless of Ndlovu to post such a “dangerous” statement as his status.
Ntombela said the city is struggling financially and it is odd that a councillor of the party in charge would incite violence against the same officials who were carrying out their duties.
What is it that he stands to gain by telling people to attack municipal workers? The statement he made [UMA BENENKANI NIBABAMBE NIBAQINISE ZE BAZOFUNDA (I) NHLONIPHO] is very dangerous and the city should charge him for inciting violence against its employees.
The ACDP echoed the IFP’s sentiment and added that Ndlovu should be criminally charged and dismissed as a councillor.
The party’s Rienus Niemand condemned this “criminal behaviour”.
This is an incitement to commit crime. In all the wards where the ANC has a majority, the theft from prepaid electricity and water is endemic. In some wards [it is] up to 100% with no action taken. This kind of behaviour is what has brought our city, our province, and indeed our country to its knees financially. It must be eradicated ruthlessly at all costs.