‘You will be dead…’

Rich­mond mu­nic­i­pal man­ager liv­ing in ter­ror af­ter threats

Sunday Tribune - - METRO - LUNGANI ZUNGU lungani.zungu@inl.co.za

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.

| GCINA NDWALANE African News Agency (ANA)

THREAT­ENED Bongiwe Mnikathi says it has been a painful week for her, but she will ‘stand strong’.

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