The Gert Sibande district municipality says they took “seriously” the threats made through SMSes to municipal manager Absenia Habile and had to hire bodyguards to prevent any risk to his life…
Habile caused an outcry late last year when the municipality bent rules to supply him with bodyguards.
They were supposed to get a risk assessment report from police boss Lieutenant-General Mondli Zuma but Zuma ignored their request in June 2018 when they told him Habile was receiving “death threats”.
Then in November 2018 a council sitting took a resolution to supply Habile with two bodyguards, despite having no security assessment report from Zuma.
Municipal spokesman Lungisizwe Mkhwanazi said the hasty decision was taken “as a result of several worrying, consistent and regular life threatening messages directed at Mr Habile and members of his family”.
“These messages directly affected Mr Habile’s wellbeing and even his performance at work which was a matter the institution took seriously,” Mkhwanazi said.
Mkhwanazi said despite not getting “response or feedback” from Zuma they did open a case with the cops in Ermelo.
“Despite not receiving feedback from General Zuma’s office an effort to avoid possible loss of life was taken,” he said.
“Careful consideration to the financial implications was applied in that no new security contract was made, instead an extension of a readily available VIP protection service was used. This was a three months arrangement until the police commissioner’s office could advise accordingly and the SAPS could conclude on the case,” Mkhwanazi said.
Habile will be protected at R61 000 each month.
Mayor Muzi Chirwa was also provided with three extra bodyguards by a council resolution in May 2018.
Chirwa previously had two bodyguards and now the resolution added the three at R262 000 each month and this occurred 3 days after an MKMVA member was shot dead during an ANCYL conference, allegedly by one of his two bodyguards.
Trevor Nkosi, the chief whip at the same Gert Sibande district municipality, also has bodyguards.
DA councillor Muso Kubheka said it was unlikely the municipality was paying for Nkosi’s three bodyguards.
“We asked that question and they said ‘no’. And because it didn’t go to council we take it the municipality is not paying for Nkosi’s bodyguards,” said Kubheka.
Government wants to divert a road to another section, angering the other group from the other section.
A two-decade long cry for a road in Gert Sibande mayor Muzi Chirwa’s ward of Badplaas has divided the community, leaving tensions at a boiling point amongst the residents.
Government irked the residents a week ago when officials announced they would construct a 700m street and no longer the 4km main road that the residents are demanding.
013NEWS has seen the 700m street that the municipality intends to construct and municipal officials say this street will be paved at R5 million of taxpayers’ money.
It is located in Dlamini C and residents from Dlamini D believe it’s useless of government to pave this Dlamini C street and not prioritise the main road, which they say is being used by a lot of people and can make economic activities viable in the area.
The main road in Dlamini D that residents want prioritised.
Dubbed “a passage”, officials say the reason they are now opting to pave this 700m street and not the 4km Dlamini D main road is because of the “tight” R5 million budget.
On Thursday last week, angry residents from Dlamini D blockaded a road with rocks, school desks and burning tyres, demanding government comes listen to them.
They say “a passage” won’t help them and they accuse officials of prioritising it in order to rake in profits from the R5 million.
But another group, armed with dangerous weapons, came to the protesting residents, threatening to kill them and then began removing the rocks from the road that were left by the protesting group, accusing the protesting group of frustrating “development” in the area.
The armed group wants the 700m street, but is being accused by the protesting group of doing so because its members were promised jobs in the R5 million worth construction project of the 700m street and not really that they want development in the area.
“Since the first councillor in 1994 or something the matter of the road was put in the Infrastructure Development Program. Since then we have been waiting. Waiting, waiting. Very patient. Now the project comes, they divert it to that passage,” 62-year-old Mhlaba Nhlabatsi said.
He said local taxis can use the road to transport people in and out of their homes and can create economic development in the area.
Ward councillor Mandla Motaung said the situation is unfortunate. He said as government they want to satisfy everybody but the R5 million is too small to satisfy everybody.
“The contractor is already on site. He is given to pave the area until 2021. The total amount he wants to pave this street and the main road is R31 million, so currently the municipality has R5 million and we said with the R5 million let us put the 700m street and then we will wait for the next financial year where we will get another money and begin constructing the road. We are calling for calm as government, everybody will get a paving, it’s just the budget for now,” Motaung said.
Quite a strongman in regional politics, it looks now that the beefing up of his security was a decision taken because of threats on his life but also it happens three days after the chaotic ANCYL congress in Badplaas that left an MKMVA member dead and one of the mayor’s two bodyguards arrested.
The Democratic Alliance says they were outnumbered when a resolution to appoint a private security company to provide extra bodyguards to Gert Sibande mayor Muzi Chirwa was passed.
The resolution was passed during a special council sitting on 30 May 2018 – just three days after the Gert Sibande ANCYL regional congress in Badplaas that saw MKMVA member Samson Madonsela shot dead. Chirwa’s personal bodyguard Phelele Shongwe, who is also an MKMVA member and who was there to provide security to the conference with other veterans, was arrested and later released by the court on R10 000 bail.
DA councillor in the Gert Sibande district municipality, Muso Kubheka, says Chirwa now has five bodyguards and a company called NJS Security was appointed.
“We said why don’t we take that money and improve service delivery rather than beefing up the mayor’s security.
“We were outnumbered by ANC councillors. They supported the report which said that there are a number of service delivery protests and the mayor should be protected because he receives death threats through his cellphone. We rejected this request,” Kubheka said.
Chirwa previously had two guards since his election as mayor in August 2016 but it now seems NJS Security has provided the three extra guards.
The Gert Sibande district municipality has 19 seats, 14 of which were won by the ANC, DA 3 and EFF 2.
Kubheka said the DA was the only party that opposed the request to beef up Chirwa’s bodyguards and “it was on record”.
A screenshot of a piece of paper seen by the 013NEWS reporter a week ago shows that NJS Security will charge the district municipality about R262 000 monthly, appointed “in emergency” to provide “personal security to the Executive Mayor on an urgent basis,” it reads.
Part of the four Mpumalanga regions notorious with its communities for having leaders driving state-of-the-art vehicles while the people live in mess will finally answer.
Gert Sibande district mayor Muzi Chirwa’s “sluggish district” is now a subject of talk by a Parliament committee.
Parliament’s committee on sanitation is in the Mpumalanga province on an oversight visit and is now expressing concerns over what it saw in the district.
“The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation is concerned by the state of Waste Water Treatment Works in the Gert Sibande district municipality that has resulted in hazardous spillages in the streams and rivers in the area,” portfolio committee chairman Mlungisi Johnson said in a statement on Thursday morning this week.
“According to the information received by the committee,” Johnson said, “none of the Waste Water Treatment Works in the district is fully functional”.
“This is despite the growing population and increased demand on the available infrastructure,” he said.
Johnson slammed the municipality and said that it was unacceptable that raw sewer finds its way into the rivers.
Systems of sewage and water in the district are flowing to rivers and dams and have affected the Vaal River, a national river, which starts in the area.
“At the Standerton Waste Water Treatment Works, the malfunction of filters has resulted in untreated water finding its way into the Vaal river system,” Johnson charged.
“The municipality sited the long procurement process as an impediment to dealing with some of the urgent challenges. Furthermore, the rate of implementation of projects is disturbingly slow which must be looked into,” he said.
He said the committee was very shocked to find that a 2 Megalitre plant has not been functional since 2015, owing to “sluggish intervention by all spheres of government in resolving such an environmental risk factor”.
“It is the committee’s considered view that a piecemeal approach will not work in resolving the challenges faced by the district.
“A comprehensive response is necessary to deal with this hazardous challenge and there is no sign [that] planning [is] happening at municipal level [to resolve the issue]”.
013NEWS could not draw comments from Chirwa as his spokesman Lungisizwe Mkhwanazi’s landline went unanswered on Thursday morning and his cellphone off. Chirwa also didn’t answer his phone.