A recent oversight inspection by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to KZN’s Richmond Municipality has revealed possible political interference involving the abuse of municipal assets. This includes a municipality-owned plantation currently being used for logging without any known agreement or contract in place.
The DA’s visit, which took place last week, resulted in the forest area under scrutiny being set alight and burned to the ground later the same day.
The oversight saw the DA first visit Richmond SAPS to get an update on a number of fraud and abuse cases involving municipal assets. The vast majority of these cases are clear cut and should have been resolved, however the DA’s findings indicate a possible pattern of political interference, preventing these cases from being concluded.
Of greatest concern though is the uninhibited logging taking place on a municipal property despite no known agreement in place with the people selling the logs or any contract to allow them to operate on the council owned land.
According to SAPS there are also cases for theft of timber as well as trespassing on these parcels of land that have not been finalised.
The DA’s subsequent visit to the municipality also established that attempts by local SAPS to arrest the workers on site have been interrupted as many as three times. This after ‘meetings’ – allegedly between certain Councillors and those involved in the illegal logging and occupation of municipal property – were suddenly called on the very same days that operations for arrests were to take place.
The DA regards the situation in Richmond as indicative of how the ANC culture of corruption has saturated this municipality without consequence.
Regrettably, the DA was unable to meet with the SAPS Station Commander on the day of our visit. We will however visit the station again in the next two weeks to get further updates. At this stage though, the DA has identified information that is still required to secure arrests and will be pursuing avenues to get access to this.
If after our next visit SAPS has failed to act on the cases opened by NCT (Forestry Cooperative Limited) in 2017 and the municipality in 2018, the DA will open its own case and provide information that will assist police to work free of interference.
In addition, we will be approaching companies known to be purchasing the stolen timber assets for further processing.
Essentially these companies could be unknowingly purchasing stolen goods. The DA has also emailed both Saiccor and Sappi Ixopo for clarity following their suspected involvement in the issue.
The DA has a zero-tolerance approach to corruption in KZN and we will do all that we can to protect the citizens of the Richmond Municipality from organised criminals.