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06 Sep 2008 06:00
The battle for ascendancy within ANC president Jacob Zuma’s camp in KwaZulu-Natal opened up fault-lines at a recent regional elective conference—with allegations that taxpayers’ money was used to buy votes to ensure the victory of one Zuma faction over another.
At the centre of the controversy are cheques worth about R1-million with allegedly forged signatures, which were issued by the KwaZulu-Natal north coast’s Ilembe District municipality to “shell companies”.
There are suggestions by ANC delegates who attended the conference of the Greater KwaDukuza region, held at Shaka’s Kraal town hall two weeks ago, that some of this money was used to house the 174 delegates at luxury beachfront hotels.
It is also claimed that it was used to pay for delegates’ breakfasts at a fast-food restaurant and for entertaining them at two late-night braais, where the “alcohol and food flowed”.
According to another delegate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, “accommodation for conference delegates was divided according to who they supported, not where they came from”.
These factional conflicts saw supporters of current Ilembe mayor, Welcome Mdabe, staying at the luxury beachfront La Montagne Hotel, situated in the upmarket holiday resort of Ballito.
Double rooms at La Montagne cost R867 per night, while four-sleepers cost R1 300 per night.
Supporters of Ben Nzuza, the Ilembe council speaker, were housed at the Salt Rock Hotel in Umhlali where rates range from R420-per person per night to R500.
Mdabe was eventually elected chairperson.
“The ANC Greater KwaDukuza region is very poor; they were taken to court last year because they couldn’t pay the rent of their offices.
So how they got the money for this lavish conference is beyond me,” said an ANC delegate.
“If you think about the transport, the hotel, the food, the braais and booze, it wouldn’t surprise me that this money from Ilembe went towards the conference,” said the ANC member.
According to the report drawn up by treasurer Roy Ainslie, the conference was “funded in kind and by direct payments by the donors to the service provider”.
Ainslie could not be reached at the time of going to press, and both Ilembe municipal manager Bamba Ndwandwe and chief financial officer Mathobi Mkhize failed to return numerous calls from the Mail & Guardian.
The M&G has copies of the cheques made out to Henque 2009 cc and Ntlelem Intertrac cc, for the amounts of R486 835,10 and R487 957 respectively.
The newspaper has established that neither company exists at the address registered with the Registrar of Companies and Close Corporations, nor does the sole member of each company reside at the residential address given.
Mayor Ndaba, however, dismissed allegations that the fraudulent cheques had been used to fund the ANC conference and electioneering.
He said the council had enlisted the aid of “a private investigator, the police’s commercial crimes unit and an independent forensic auditing firm to get to the bottom of this”.
“We have given them a six-week deadline, and they are already three weeks into the investigation, which includes staff and other relevant people. This is sensitive, but we will get to the bottom of it,” he said.
The Inkatha Freedom Party in the district council has, however, questioned the timing of the forensic audit.
“The first time this matter was heard at exco was when our chief whip, Makhosonke Ntuli, moved for a resolution on the matter on August 28 after evidence gathered by our chairperson Jabulani Sibiya,” said Cas Anamalay, IFP deputy chairperson for the Ilembe district.
“For the ANC to say they called for an audit and investigation three weeks ago is unprocedural, because this had to have been passed by exco before anything could happen. What were they trying to hide from us before we started asking questions?” Anamalay asked.
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