Hawks bust group running ‘ghost’ municipal projects

A year after corruption in local municipalities under KwaZulu-Natal’s Harry Gwala district municipality was thrown under the spotlight by the murder of former ANC Youth League leader and whistle-blower Sindiso Magaqa, a group of officials from the district have been arrested for corruption involving “ghost” municipal projects.

The area has been under intense scrutiny by security forces since the murder of Magaqa, which followed the assassination of Umzimkhulu local municipality speaker Khaya Thobela and deputy mayor Mduduzi Tshibase.

READ MORE: Suspect arrested in Sindiso Magaqa murder

On Thursday one suspect appeared in the Umzimkhulu Magistrate’s Court for Magaqa’s murder. Police say another suspect was killed in a shootout with the police.

The pressure brought to bear by the Hawks and whistle-blowers appears to be paying off. On Tuesday the district municipality’s director of revenue, Vuyokazi Mfeqa, infrastructure project manager Dumisani Mzolo, acquisitions manager Raymond Hadebe and administration manager Anthea Adams appeared in Durban’s commercial crimes court along with the owners of three local companies and Adams’ husband Wesley on charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering amounting to R1.3-million.

They were arrested in the early hours of Tuesday morning and were released on bail of between R2 000 and R5 000 each. They will appear in court again on November 9 and are still to plead to the charges.

The alleged scam was reported to the Hawks by the district municipality last July, sparking an investigation which started in September. The scam was allegedly run by Mfeqa, who still works at the municipality. Her implicated colleagues have resigned.

The group’s arrest follows that of the former mayor and municipal manager of the Creighton-based Dr Nkosazane Dlamini-Zuma local municipality, on corruption charges for running “ghost” municipal infrastructure projects.

It also comes on the heels of an investigation by the public protector into alleged corruption in the Umzimkhulu local municipality — where Magaqa was serving as a councillor at the time of his murder — over the refurbishment of the Umzimkhulu Memorial Hall, which ballooned from R4-million to R37-million.

The Hawks are investigating the memorial hall deal, in which several service providers, allegedly linked to senior municipal officials and former regional ANC leaders, were paid for the upgrade without work being done. Magaqa had blown the whistle about the deal before his death.

No arrests have been made in the Umzimkhulu cases.

According to the charge sheet in the Harry Gwala district case, Mfeqa invited service providers to submit bids for nonexistent tenders and then, with the help of Mzolo, Hadebe and Adams, processed and made payments to companies for work that never took place between December 2016 and November last year.

Payments were also processed through a bank account belonging to Wesley Adams and through four companies, Njakane Pty Ltd, Yemuyemu Construction Projects, Griffiths Solutions and Wutu Trading and Projects, says the charge sheet.

The owners of the companies, Thabang Mfuze, Obuhle Ngcobo and Aubrey Madikizela, allegedly received the payments and channelled money back to the council officials.

The former mayor of Dr Nkosazane Dlamini-Zuma local municipality, Nomagugu Luzulane, and former municipal manager Nthabiseng Mokoena-Brown, appeared in the commercial crimes court last month. They are accused of using municipal funds to pay for the funeral of Thulani Zondi, brother of ANC MPL Amon Zondi, who was allegedly Luzulane’s lover.

They allegedly used R60 000 from the municipality’s poverty alleviation programme to pay for the 2012 funeral, after which R50 000 in cash was paid back to the mayor, who has been “recalled” by the ANC.

Luzulane and Mokoena-Brown were arrested last year and will go on trial on November 14. They have pleaded not guilty.

ANC Harry Gwala region spokesperson Thabiso Zulu, a close colleague of Magaqa and a fellow whistle-blower, said the new ANC leadership in KwaZulu-Natal, which was elected two weeks ago, welcomed the arrests in the Dr Nkosazane Dlamini-Zuma local municipality and the Harry Gwala district municipality.

READ MORE: 5th ANC KZN official shot dead in Harry Gwala region

“We are determined to ensure that action is taken against anyone involved in any wrongdoing, irrespective of their position in the movement and government,” Zulu said.

But several other corruption cases reported to the Hawks had not been investigated, according to Zulu.

“We issue a strong warning to officials and politicians of our region to desist from stealing the future of our children through committing fraud and corruption,” he said.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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