The Herald: Municipal officials held in funds drama released

The Herald 6/5/2008

Municipal officials held in funds drama released


A HOSTAGE drama in which municipal officials were locked inside the Motherwell Urban Renewal Project (Murp) offices by angry residents overnight ended yesterday morning.

The residents said the next target would be councillors, whom they claim enriched themselves from the project.

Seven Motherwell councillors were mentioned as being responsible for the failure of the billion-rand presidential project to benefit local residents.

Mayor Nondumiso Maphazi, who failed to turn up yesterday to respond to the community‘s concerns, has been given until Friday to respond. The residents‘ main gripe is that funds of R18-million for 2006 and R32-million for 2007/08 from the European Union, meant for Murp, have not been accounted for by the council.

Apart from the government presidential special project funds, the EU committed about R132-million to the project, which was launched in 2001 by President Thabo Mbeki to fight crime, alleviate poverty and create employment.

Group leader Sandile Thwani said a series of rallies, visits, picketing and marches would form part of the action, which would continue until Maphazi had agreed to come to give the group a report on how money for the project had been used.

Thwani said the community‘s main concerns were the “non-implementation of social compact resolutions” for all stakeholders, a lack of say by residents in the project, and the “non-availability of a detailed audited financial report on all European Union funds”.

Maphazi is at the centre of the storm after she allegedly sidelined the Motherwell Community Development Forum and the Murp steering committee, and placed the project under her office.

Municipal spokesman Lourens Schoeman said only the mayor could respond to the claims, but she was busy with 2010 soccer World Cup activities and would not be able to meet the residents. “They must pursue the acceptable channels to voice their grievances to the mayor,” he said.

Police spokesman Captain André Beetge said they had been notified by a Murp official about noon on Monday that a large group of residents had entered the building.

“His view was that no police assistance was necessary. It seems it was not a hostage situation. We kept in hourly contact with him until night. The situation remained the same until they resolved it themselves.”