‘I’ve been hu­mil­i­ated’

Rich­mond MM says she fears for her life af­ter re­ceiv­ing death threats

The Witness - - NEWS - SABELO NSELE •­ sabelo.nsele@wit­ness.co.za

EM­BAT­TLED­ Rich­mond­ mu­nic­i­pal­man­ager­ Bongiwe­ Mnikathi­ yes­ter­day­told­how­she­fears­for­her­life­af­ter­threat­sagainst­her.

In­ an­ in­ter­view­ with­ The Wit­ness,Mnikathi­ told­ of­ the­ in­tim­i­da­tion­ she­has­had­to­en­dure­since­join­ing­the­mu­nic­i­pal­ity­to­wards­the­end­of­last­year.

Mnikathi­is­cur­rently­on­spe­cial­leaveafter­be­ing­ad­vised­by­the­Depart­mentof­Co-op­er­a­tive­Gov­er­nance­and­Tra­di­tional­Af­fairs­(Cogta)­that­her­life­wasin­dan­ger.

The­de­part­ment­pre­sented­a­State­Se­cu­rity­Agency­re­port­to­coun­cil­last­weekand­ rec­om­mended­ she­ take­ a­ spe­cial­ leave,­Mnikathi­said.

“I­had­to­re­spect­Cogta’s­de­ci­sion­be­causeof­ the­ po­lit­i­cal­ cli­mate­ in­ Rich­mond.­I­re­placed­some­one­[for­mer­mu­nic­i­pal­man­ager,­Sibu­siso­Sit­hole]­whowas­shot­and­killed­near­the­lo­cal­po­lices­ta­tion,”­she­said.

Last­month­Mnikathi­opened­a­caseafter­she­re­ceived­a­threat­en­ing­SMS.

How­ever,­Mnikathi­said­it­all­start­ed­long­be­fore­that.

“Four­months­af­ter­I­joined­the­mu­nic­i­pal­ity,­work­ers­em­barked­on­an­il­le­gal­strike­and­they­were­car­ry­ing­a­coffin­which­had­my­name­writ­ten­on­it.­A­cof­fin­means­some­one­is­go­ing­to­die.­A­cab­i­net­visit­to­Rich­mond­had­to­be­can­celled­due­to­that­strike.

“Since­I­joined­the­mu­nic­i­pal­ity,­I­have­been­ hu­mil­i­ated­ on­ sev­eral­ oc­ca­sion­sand­I­have­been­de­nied­ac­cess­to­my­of­fice­many­times­...­This­is­very­painful,”she­said.

She­ said­ the­ Pi­eter­mar­itzburg­ high­court­has­ruled­­in­her­favour­on­three­oc­ca­sions.

Mnikathi­was­sus­pended­in­July­facin­gal­le­ga­tions­ of­ mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion,­ ma­nip­u­la­tion­of­sup­ply­chain­man­age­ment­pro­cesses,­ in­tim­i­da­tion­ of­ staff,­ fail­ureto­ at­tend­ pub­lic­ and­ coun­cil­ meet­ingswith­out­valid­rea­son­and­bring­ing­the­mu­nic­i­pal­ity­to­near­col­lapse.

She­was­again­sus­pended­on­fresh­al­le­ga­tion­sin­clud­ing­ that­ she­ had­ bough­tal­co­hol­ worth­ R20­000­ with­ coun­cil­ funds.

The­sec­ond­sus­pen­sion­came­af­ter­aPi­eter­mar­itzburg­high­court­in­terim­or­der­had­over­turned­her­ini­tial­sus­pen­sion.

She­was­then­sus­pended­once­againand­went­to­court­to­over­turn­that­sus­pen­sion­too.

Mnikathi­ de­nied­ all­ the­ al­le­ga­tion­slev­elled­against­her.

“The­R20­000­they­are­talk­ing­wa­sused­to­buy­Christ­mas­vouch­ers­for­desti­tute­fam­i­lies­iden­ti­fied­by­ward­coun­cil­lors­from­ all­ the­ seven­ wards.­ That­food­was­dis­trib­uted­by­the­same­coun­cil­lors­who­are­to­day­claim­ing­that­the­money­was­used­to­buy­al­co­hol.

“I­do­not­know­why­they­are­mis­lead­ing­the­pub­lic. “I­ do­ not­ know­ why­ the­ coun­cil­ is­com­plain­ing­ about­ the­ qual­ity­ of­ the­food­when­the­food­was­dis­trib­uted­in­De­cem­ber­last­year.­Why­are­they­on­ly­complain­ing­about­it­now?­The­food­was­bought­from­a­rep­utable­re­tail­shop­andwe­chose­rep­utable­brands,”­she­said.

Mnikathi­said­the­saga­had­put­her­un­der­a­lot­of­strain.

She­said­it­was­dis­turb­ing­that­somecom­mu­nity­ mem­bers­ and­ a­ coun­cil­lor­were­ post­ing­ mes­sages­ on­ so­cial­ net­workscel­e­brat­ing­ that­ she­ had­ tak­en­spe­cial­leave.

“Are­they­cel­e­brat­ing­that­my­life­isin­dan­ger?”

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