After several failed attempts to unseat IFP speaker Michael Khumalo, ANC members may finally have found some dirt.
They believe they now have proof the AbaQulusi Council is being run by a criminal.
Cllr Khumalo has been accused of “stealing” a generator from a municipal fire engine, by ANC members who say they find it unacceptable the greed and selfishness of a public official could have cost a life, reports Vryheid Herald.
Police officers, who seized the generator from Cllr Khumalo’s homestead, are now being investigated for theft however, after Cllr Khumalo opened a case against them.
Cllr Khumalo claimed the ANC’s accusation of theft is a “despicable, desperate lie” meant to “assassinate my character”.
In a press release issued by the ANC, the party’s provincial spokesperson, Ricardo Mthembu stated: “The IFP speaker is accused of stealing the fire engine generator, which belongs to the municipality, in 2017, and has been using it for his personal use at the expense of the municipality, thereby crippling the municipality’s ability to respond to emergencies, seriously endangering the lives and properties of the citizens of AbaQulusi.”
Mthembu added: “It is unacceptable that a public representative is accused of being engaged in a criminal activity. It is a blatant betrayal of the trust of the people who voted him into power. While crime is bad no matter who commits it, it is even worse if it is committed by public representatives who people always expect to uphold high moral standards.”
Cllr Khumalo pointed out that not only did he have his own generator, but his home was also fitted with solar panels, and quipped that if he had intended to steal the municipal generator, he would at least have had the good sense to remove the municipal asset tag.
“It is the highest level of stupidity to think a thief would not remove identification from stolen goods,” he said. “I am a councillor for Ward 4. Graders, TLBs, trucks, tents and generators are kept in ward councillors’ homes when there are projects in those areas, as there is no other secure government offices to keep those assets safely.”
Cllr Khumalo explained: “After the last roadshow, Disaster Management did not collect the generator immediately after the function. They are the ones who were supposed to take it back, not me!”
The generator on a fire engine is used to power the Jaws of Life, equipment commonly used to rescue people who are entrapped during a motor vehicle collision.
Generators are also used to provide adequate lighting when firefighters respond to emergencies at night.
However, Cllr Khumalo insisted the generator on this fire engine was only used to power the lights and not the Jaws of Life.
Local ANC members were reluctant to comment, saying they feared intimidation.
Asking not to be named, one ANC councillor said municipal staff confided in him that Cllr Khumalo gave the instruction to load the generator onto a bakkie and transport it to his homestead for use during the funeral of a close family member, which took place in 2017.
It is alleged the generator was never returned to the municipality, but remained on the homestead where Cllr Khumalo continued to use it until it was seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit last week.
Captain Mbongeni Mdlalose of Empangeni SAPS confirmed a case of theft had been opened on November 15 and that the generator was recovered at Cllr Khumalo’s homestead.
“I cannot say more than that as it is still being investigated,” explained Capt Mdlalose.
A delivery note from Fire Raiders shows the 2.2kva Honda petrol generator was delivered to the municipality with an Atego fire engine in June 2013.
Cllr Khumalo believes it cannot be a coincidence that his home was raided on the same day a committee appointed by Council began its investigation into how ANC members repeatedly walking out of meetings affected the smooth running of the municipality.
“It seems the SAPS [is] being used to fight political battles. As I am speaking, I have heard rumours the police will be used again on December 5 [Thursday] to come and arrest me during the council meeting so the IFP will be in shame,” claimed Cllr Khumalo.
“The police officers who raided my house on November 22 and then took the generator hadn’t contacted me, the municipality or the local police, so I reported the matter to the Gluckstadt SAPS and I opened a case of theft.”
Acting director of the community services department Sikhumbuzo Zondo said he was only appointed two months ago and needed time to familiarise himself with the issue before he could respond.
Chairperson of AfriForum Andre van der Walt has heard the allegation the speaker took a municipal generator two years ago and never returned it, and is also looking into it from a “community watchdog perspective”.
“I heard they even found the generator at the speaker’s home. If it is true, then he is a criminal and should be locked up,” said Van der Walt.
Despite this scandal, Ken Taylor, the head of community safety in the Kambula area, commended AbaQulusi Fire Department as one of the more productive municipal departments, based on his observations.
“Their reaction time has improved and I was pleasantly surprised recently at how well they responded to a collision on the Kambula Road.”
Elaine Rodway, who commented on behalf of the Neighbourhood Watch, shared Taylor’s view, with members of the organisation having noted a “remarkable improvement” in the performance of the firefighters in recent times.
“Vryheid Neighbourhood Watch is proud to say that we as an organisation, often called upon to assist in emergency situations alongside the municipal fire department, have developed a healthy working relationship with them. We feel they are currently ‘up to scratch’ when it comes to carrying out their duties,” said Rodway.
“We work together with them often and can honestly attest to the fact that there has been a notable forward progression in many aspects of their performance. The team is very helpful, their response times have greatly improved and they are always neat, visible and ready to assist. We cannot provide any negative commentary at this point as we feel that they are actually ‘on the ball’, so to speak.”
Cllr Khumalo, who is seeking legal advice on what he referred to as an “irresponsible, unprovoked character assassination by the ANC senior leaders”, exclaimed: “My dignity and integrity will not be stolen by ANC lies!”
Mthembu insisted the ANC’s interest in this matter was not politically motivated.
He jokingly remarked the IFP could have had reason to believe it was, if an ANC member had taken the generator, planted it at Cllr Khumalo’s homestead and then opened a case.
“That is not what happened. He voluntarily took the generator,” stated Mthembu.
“We want to send a message to anyone who steals something that belongs to government, regardless of which political party they belong to, that stealing something which belongs to the community is a serious crime. We ask ourselves, how many things that belong to the community are actually in the homes of political leaders. The IFP has the right to raise these matters against ANC leaders as well. As leaders, we need to work together to fight corruption.”
Explaining why it had taken two years for staff came forward with this information, Mthembu stated: “It takes a brave person to come out against a political leader.”