The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) can today confirm that the Richmond Municipality has opened a cased of theft of timber, to the value of at least R13 million, from municipal-owned property.
Last month the DA conducted an oversight inspection to the approximately 500 hectare property. This after a tip-off about possible political interference involving the abuse of municipal assets with uninhibited logging allegedly taking place with no known agreement in place.
According to our sources, there are councillors and ANC members who have allegedly benefited from the illegal logging. Immediately after the visit, the forest area under scrutiny was set alight and burned to the ground.
The municipality’s decision to lay charges is long overdue. Apart from the criminality involved, this is revenue that is now lost. The funds generated from this property should have been used to deliver services to the citizens of the Richmond municipality. Instead, politically protected opportunists have benefited at the expense of all residents.
While the DA welcomes the fact that there is finally some progress, we also feel that this these disturbing revelations need to be dealt with at a much higher level. This after SAPS Richmond failed dismally to investigate charges laid in terms of cas number 65/6/2019.
For this reason, we will today write to General Makhoba and Brigadier Mbhele of the KwaZulu-Natal SAPS to request that this case be transferred from SAPS Richmond to the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigations, more commonly known as the Hawks.
The DA also commends SAPPI and SAPPI Saiccor for their quick response to our email, alerting them to potential wrong doing by purchasing the timber. This is an indication that they are a responsible and responsive corporate stakeholder in the industry.
The DA in KwaZulu-Natal will not remain silent where public funds are stolen and the law is broken. We will pursue this issue relentlessly until the perpetrators are brought to book.