/ 2 October 2020

eThekwini’s everlasting security contract

President Jacob Zuma At Sanco Rally
Former president Jacob Zuma with Roy Moodley during a Sanco rally at the Curries Fountain Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Durban. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thuli Dlamini)

Three years after the high court ordered the eThekwini municipality to reopen a controversial R85-million-a-month security tender, it has failed to do so.

Instead, the eight security companies who have benefited from the highly lucrative bodyguarding and static security tender since 2007 are still being paid on a month-by-month basis. 

Among them is Royal Security, owned by Roy Moodley, the long-term benefactor of former president Jacob Zuma, whose company paid Zuma R64 000 a month from July 2007 until two months into his presidency. 

In 2010, Royal was awarded a series of tenders, totalling R471‑million, by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), according to the evidence before the Zondo commission earlier this year.

The eThekwini security tender was first awarded in 2007 and extended by the city several times using Section 36 of municipal supply chain management regulations, allegedly due to the close political relationships of company directors. 

It was readvertised in 2015 and awarded to 37 companies by the city in August 2017.

eThekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela confirmed that the contract was still continuing on a month- to-month basis and had now escalated to R85-million a month.

“The process has resumed and the build specification committee has looked into the matter. The next step will be to advertise,” he said.

This award was successfully challenged by several of the security companies that had been involved in the process, and in the original tender, which had been awarded to just eight companies. 

The eight — Khuselani, Secureco Metsu, Enforce, Isidingo, Royal Security, Sharks Protection Services, Vusa-Sizwe Security and iMvula — had been providing security services for the city since 2004, with the three-year contract being extended using emergency powers.

However, iMvula and Secureco Metsu went to court, claiming that the process had been manipulated by the city’s deputy head of supply chain management, Zandile Sithole, who had been suspended over the tender.

Durban high court judge Gregory Kruger instructed the city to re­advertise the process and appoint new interim service providers while irregularities in the award were being investigated.

Kruger also instructed the city to retain its contract with the eight security companies, whose staff were still on site, until new service providers were appointed in February 2018.

This never happened.

While the city did issue a fresh request for quotes from interim service providers in October 2017, it withdrew the request on the day bidders were meant to submit their quotes for the 12-month contract, quoting legal issues.

Instead, it issued an agreement on November 1 2017 allowing the existing service providers to remain on-site and be paid on a month-to-month basis by the city, until the end of January 2018.

Since then, the status quo has remained, with the city paying the eight companies R85-million a month, mainly for guarding city buildings and providing bodyguards to councillors and city officials.

A senior city official, who asked not to be named, told the Mail & Guardian that following the withdrawal of the 2017 request for quotes, nothing had been done since the process was abandoned.

“Things are just like that. That was three years ago, and the cost of the contract is escalating, but there’s nothing being done,” the official said.

“There’s been no progress. Every time there is an attempt to open the process again and put the matter to tender, there’s a problem and things are put on hold. The new mayor [Mxolisi Kaunda] has been paralysed in terms of dealing with this,” the source said.

During the 2017 court application, then city manager Sipho Nzuza said in an affidavit that the contract had been extended several times since it was first issued, more than 10 years earlier. As a result, service providers had “unduly benefited from extensions and Section 36 appointments, which have been ongoing for more than 10 years”.

A former ANC councillor, who asked not to be named, said the tender had been a “problem from the beginning”.

“There have been problems from the time it was awarded. It’s all political. They were trying to stop certain companies from getting in. Now things are just continuing on a month-to-month basis. The new award process didn’t go anywhere and things have just been left where they were,” the councillor said.

“There is a new process that is going to be advertised, but for now they are still on a month-to-month.”

Neither Sipho Nzuza or Roy Moodley had responded to calls for comment from the M&G by the time of publication.