The deep rot of corruption at the eThekwini Municipality was exposed at the weekend when a random search by police of a van near the Mozambique border uncovered 52 LED street lights branded with the City’s logos at the back of a trailer.
The 52 street lights were, according to a City official who was called to the scene, valued R1,820,000.
Two men, aged 31 and 44, were arrested for possession of property suspected of being stolen and are expected to appear in court on Monday.
As the criminal proceedings get under way, opposition parties in the ANC-EFF led eThekwini Municipality are calling for a full investigation into how the street lights left eThekwini electricity department and ended up in a van en route to Mozambique.
“This whole thing stinks,” said Zwakele Mncwango, the leader of ActionSA in eThewkini.
“Besides the fact that these lights left eThekwini without anyone knowing about it, according to the city official who went to the scene, the 52 LED lights cost R1.8 million. That is strange, as we know each light to cost R3,500 which means that the City has in fact paid R35,000 per light which is an astronomical figure,” Mncwango said.
He said that the discovery of the street lights during a random search leaves many more unanswered questions about the management of the city’s assets.
“Somebody must be held accountable for this. Was the theft even reported to the police or was it first discovered at the roadblock? There is more to this story than meets the eye because it shows how much corruption goes on in the city that we don’t even know about.
“If you look around Durban, whether it is in the suburbs or the townships, it is dark because the street lights don’t work and now it seems that instead of fixing the broken street lights, they are being sold,” he said.
Two suspects, aged 31 and 44, were arrested after being found with 52 LED street lights engraved as property of the eThekwini Municipality.
Mncwango said they would be calling for a full investigation and ActionSA intends writing to the city manager and mayor.
Visvin Reddy, leader of the African Democratic Change and a councillor in the City, said the theft of the street lights is “only the tip of the iceberg of corruption in the city”.
Reddy said that much of the city’s recent problems were due to the ANC-EFF coalition in the city which has seen inexperienced councillors chair influential portfolios in the city.
“This particular incident should fall under the Infrastructure Committee of the municipality which is currently being chaired by an EFF councillor who is totally inexperienced and who does not know what they are doing. By now they should be putting this as an item of the agenda and calling the head of electricity to City Hall to account. But they won’t because the ANC is so afraid of losing the City that they have made deals with the EFF and what we have ended up with is weak oversight,” he said.
Reddy added: “So it is clear to anybody, even a layman, that it is an inside job and people who work for the city are involved. These are acts of terror being committed against the municipality and its citizens. We are calling for the mayor to take the theft of these street lights very seriously and for heads to roll in the municipality,” Reddy said.
Source sent the eThekwini Municipality a list of questions about the theft and included whether or not action will be taken against those involved.
In their response, eThekwini spokesperson, Gugu Sisalana said: “This is now a criminal matter that is being dealt with by law enforcement, therefore the City cannot comment to the media on a case that is part of a pending police investigation.
“The City will share all information that might be of relevance to the case directly with the relevant law enforcement authorities. This will not be done through a third party.”
Among the questions, the eThekwini Municipality refused to answer were:
– What is the municipality’s response to the arrest and discovery of the street lights?
– Was the municipality aware that the lights had gone missing before it was alerted by the police?
– Where were the street lights stored and will action be taken against the officials that were in charge of its safe storage?
– When were the street lights purchased and where are they meant to have been installed?
– Is the municipality doing an audit of all the street lights that have been purchased and stored in the location from where these street lights were stolen from?
– How many street lights are broken and need to be replaced in the municipality?
Durban ratepayers have been complaining about the city’s inability to fix broken lights for many years.
Hundreds of street across Durban are in total darkness at night as the street lights have not been replaced or repaired.
Earlier this year, the eThekwini Municipality was accused of paying contractors R597m for a street light project that was meant to have cost R91m. The city disputed this and launched an investigation into the allegations.
Source IOL News