AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Nelson Mandela Bay city boss, ANC regional secretary and ex-DA councillors face money laundering and tender fraud charges
After months of investigation, the Hawks arrived at Gqeberha City Hall with sirens blaring on Thursday looking for the city manager, Noxolo Nqwazi. She later handed herself over to the police.
As the Hawks’ sirens blared in the street in front of the Gqeberha City Hall on Thursday, Executive Mayor Retief Odendaal was wrapping up a press conference.
“A good way to figure out if you have good people on your team,” he said, “is if you hear sirens like those and you look at your colleagues and not one of them flinches.”
It is understood that the city manager, Noxolo Nqwazi was arrested for her role in signing off a R24-million tender for toilets in several informal settlements that were awarded during the National State of Disaster due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nqwazi handed herself over to the Hawks at the Humewood Police Station at about 3pm. She is due to appear in court on Friday, 30 September along with her co-accused, the metro’s former human settlements director Norman Mapu, businessman Xolani Masela and his spouse Nwabisa, as well as former Democratic Alliance councillors Trevor Louw, Neville Higgins and Victor Manyathi.
Nelson Mandela Bay ANC secretary Luyolo Nqakula handed himself over to the police on Thursday after the Hawks went looking for him.
It is expected that another suspect will be arrested on Friday.
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The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had advised the municipality that disciplinary steps should be taken against Nqwazi for her role in signing off the tender. The Nelson Mandela Bay Council, led by Eugene Johnson at the time, still wanted to take this section of the SIU report on review. The SIU also lost a court application to stop payment to the contractor that had installed the toilets.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Yolisa Mgolodela confirmed that the suspects will face charges of money laundering, fraud, and contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act.
She said R400,000 of the money for the tender was paid to a subcontractor and had been traced to the three former DA councillors, who had voted to oust their own party from the city’s government in 2018.
“The awarding of the tender was irregular. It didn’t follow supply chain procedures. While we were investigating we found that there were other individuals who were also involved in money laundering,” she said.
She explained that a subcontractor was paid R400,000 that was sent to another company and then to a private businessperson and then it “landed on an ANC member who was the regional secretary” and from there it got into the hands of the councillors at the time. She explained that these three were responsible for ousting their own DA-led city government at the time by voting with the opposition.
The DA said in a statement it believed that the R100,000 that each of the three former councillors was alleged to have received, was allegedly paid by the ANC for them to vote a certain way in the council.
“The DA welcomes the spate of arrests by the Hawks that took place across Nelson Mandela Bay today, including that of former DA councillors Neville Higgins, Trevor Louw and Victor Manyathi.
“The arrests of these former councillors vindicates the DA’s decision to terminate the membership of these individuals in 2018, following their role in collapsing the DA-led coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay,” the statement continued.
“Should this be confirmed in a court of law, it will confirm what the DA has suspected all along, which is that the ANC will stop at nothing to stay in power, including stealing money from the public purse to pay bribes to swing votes in the council.”
Higgins, Manyathi and Louw subsequently joined the Defenders of the People party. DM/MC