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Abahlali, South African territory: Admission of corruption by city official not a surprise

South African territory: It has been reported in the media that Sibusiso Vilane, deputy head for sanitation operations in the eThekwini Municipality, has admitted to approving payments totalling R36 million to four companies for providing sanitation to shack settlements even though they did not in fact provide the services for which they were paid.

Submitted to Enough 14.

Note: Enough 14 is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

When one lives in a shack settlement life is hard. There are often no basic services and when they are provided there is never enough for the entire community.

As with the provision of electricity to shack settlements in Durban the decision to provide sanitation came in response to years of struggle. When the eThekwini municipality first agreed to provide and maintain public toilets in shack settlements five years ago we hoped that this was going to make the lives of people who have spent their lives relieving themselves in the bushes easier. We hoped that this would help to keep women and children safer. We hoped that this was a small but important step towards the recognition of our human dignity.

However corrupt officials and politicians have just used the budget for the toilets as an ATM. Some companies have taken millions of rands to provide toilets but have not provided any toilets. Many shack settlements are still waiting for these toilets to be provided. They have been waiting since 2013.

When toilets have been provided some have never been looked after by those who were employed in the Expended Public Works Programme to clean them. Some of these employees have admitted that they are getting paid for work which they have never begun to perform.

When toilets have been provided, and there is actually a cleaner working, we find that a woman is supposed to clean the male and female sections. Cleaners are not given proper protective clothing or any form of health care even though they work under very unhealthy conditions.

As a result of the officials and politicians using these toilets as ATMs the conditions are shocking and unhealthy. There are rats as big as cats. It is not healthy for children to play next to them.

The recent admission by Sibusiso Vilane comes at a time where we as a movement have been asking questions with regards to this matter. We, however, believe that Vilane is a small fish being used to cover some of the prominent politicians in the municipality. Vilane has recommended that his punishment is that he either be suspended for 10 days without pay or his salary increment be withheld for a period not exceeding 13 months. This is an attempt to cover up massive corruption.

Abahlali baseMjondolo is calling for the immediate dismissal of the two officials implicated in this corruption scandal. We also call for the immediate dismissal of Mayor Zandile Gumede as all this corruption, as well as escalating violence against shack dwellers from the Metro Police and the Anti-Land Invasion Unit, has happened under her watch. We also call for the immediate dismissal of Mondli Mthembu who has been mentioned in a number of corruption scandals in the city. We believe that Sibusiso Vilane and Vusumuzi Mkhwanazi are not the only officials responsible for the corruption in the toilets scandal. More officials and political heads in the municipality are involved and must be held accountable.

When the President of the country says he is serious about fighting corruption, he must first prove it by cleaning up the biggest region of his party which is in Durban. This will prove that he is indeed in charge and that the rumour that his predecessor is still in charge of the municipality is just a rumour. The President also needs to act, seriously, against the violence in the municipality, including violence from the Metro Police, the SAPS, the Anti-Land Invasion Unit, private security companies and the izinkabi.

A s long as municipal officials and politicians continue to see the victories of our struggles as opportunities to enrich themselves and their families we will continue to organise against them.

The solution to the wholesale looting of budgets allocated to improve the living conditions of impoverished people is open, public and participatory budgeting and project management.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, February 11, 2019

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