‘You will be dead…’
Richmond municipal manager living in terror after threats
BONGIWE Mnikathi was upbeat when she was appointed municipal manager at Richmond Municipality.
More than a year later, she now feared for her life. Mnikathi claimed she was told via SMS that she would be dead by tomorrow.
“My life has been turned into a nightmare. Knowing Richmond for its violence, I cannot take this threat lightly,” she said.
The threat came via texts on her phone last Friday.
Her predecessor Sibusiso Sithole was gunned down in March last year.
“I never thought that I would ever do a countdown to the date of my death. It’s been a painful week for me. But I will stand strong,” she said.
Mnikathi said she believed the threat stemmed from a R10 million tender which was advertised while she was on suspension in August.
She was suspended over allegations that she spent R20 000 on alcohol, using the municipality’s credit card – a claim she rejected, and has taken the matter to court.
After returning from her suspension, Mnikathi said she questioned the authority of the person who signed off the tender to tar roads in ward 6 in Richmond.
“The problem started when I raised questions about that tender because I believe that the correct processes were not followed when it was issued. And the person who signed off the advert is not authorised by law to do that,” she said.
Mnikathi added that she was not prepared to issue the tender because as an accounting officer the buck stopped with her. “That’s why I’m getting these kinds of messages now,” she said.
She said she sometimes found herself in a difficult position. “If I sign off a tender that is littered with irregularities, I would be arrested. If I don’t, the people who are political-connected and want these tenders will bay for my blood. It’s a difficult situation I find myself in,” she said.
Despite the threat, Mnikathi has been to work.
“Some of my colleagues are hostile to me but it doesn’t matter,” she said.
“When I received the SMS, the person I thought about was my youngest daughter. I thought about what will happen to her if I die now?” said the mother of three.
She has since beefed up her security detail which she was paying from her own pocket.
“I cannot take risks. My safety comes first.”
Mnikathi has reported the death threats to the police and a case has been opened. She has yet to report the matter to the executive committee of the Anc-governed Richmond municipality.
Speaker of Richmond Samora Ndlovu said it was difficult for the municipality to do a threat analysis because Mnikathi had not officially notified them about the threats.
“We only read about this in the media. It baffles us because she knows how local government works,” he added. Mnikathi said she was in the process of reporting the matter to the council.
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the case was being handled by the task team assembled to investigate politically-related matters in the province.
THREATENED Bongiwe Mnikathi says it has been a painful week for her, but she will ‘stand strong’.