Eastern Cape councils get empty containers instead of a supply of sanitiser

Two Eastern Cape municipalities are still waiting for the delivery of 12,000 litres of hand sanitisers.
Image: AFP/ PHILIP FONG

Two Eastern Cape municipalities that say they were promised 12,000 litres of hand sanitisers by the provincial government to distribute to destitute families but are still waiting for the delivery are angry that the promise proved to be empty.

The co-operative governance & traditional affairs (Cogta) department  wrote to Mnquma and Mbhashe municipalities in July, promising each 300 X 20 litres of hand sanitisers, municipal bosses claimed on Monday.

Instead, the two municipalities say they were given 300 empty containers each — which they say they were told to distribute to poor households to collect water.

Councillors are now up in arms as they say they were told they would not get the sanitisers any more.

Mnquma council speaker Thobeka Bikitsha on Monday confirmed they had been promised 6,000 litres of hand sanitisers, but Bhisho reneged on the promise, leaving thousands of needy families in villages around Butterworth and Willowvale, vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Bikitsha said a senior official from the department’s free basic service unit had written to them in late July, informing them of the department’s plans to supply poor households with sanitiser.

“We were asked to compile a list of destitute households where such sanitisers were to be distributed. After this we were called again and told to send staff to Bhisho to collect the items.

“We sent several vans to Bhisho, but to our surprise, our officials were only given empty containers and were told that a tank with the sanitiser would be delivered later.

“We were informed that the department’s disaster management unit will let us know when the sanitiser will arrive. When the delivery did not come, I approached the department and was later told that it was a mistake and a miscommunication, and that we were only getting the empty containers and not sanitisers,” Bikitsha said.

“When this was brought to the attention of our councillors, they were furious and felt that we were taken for a ride. We signed some documents when we collected those containers, but now the council’s worry is that we will be flagged as part of those involved in the Covid-19 corruption.”

Bikitsha said council resolved that Cogta should take back the containers, which she said was yet to happen.

“We also fear an embarrassment in our needy communities, who do not need such containers. We cannot go to our people with such empty containers, while they are in desperate need of help from us, especially during this trying Covid-19 period,” she said.

Mbhashe’s community services senior manager NoNurse Mlungu confirmed they had also sent trucks to collect the promised sanitisers in Bhisho but also only came back with empty containers.

“When I heard about this Cogta move, I was sceptical, because their promise to give us 300 x 20 litres of sanitiser just sounded too good to be true.

“However, we followed all their instructions, but were shocked when they did not live up to their promise. We have now informed the department to collect these items as we cannot give them to our people. It would be an embarrassment for our council.

“None of our people asked for water containers. People want taps next to their houses. We can afford our sanitisers, but we felt this was a good gesture from the province. It, however, turned out to be a nightmare,” Mlungu said.

Mayors from both councils have promised to take this up with Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha.

The DA in Mbhashe has demanded answers, fearing that the money for the sanitisers could have been stolen.

DA councillor Thabisa Goniwe-Mafanya on Friday wrote to Mbhashe authorities demanding answers.

Goniwe-Mafanya on Monday said: “The next thing you will hear is that millions were paid to supply sanitiser to our municipality. We want this cleared up, so that if there is corruption in this, people will know where to point fingers.”

Cogta provincial spokesperson, Mamnkeli Ngam said: “The misunderstanding is due an error in a communique by our official to the affected municipalities which made reference to saniters. The error has been clarified to the officials at (these municipalities). These are portable water containers meant for the indigent  beneficiaries in the drought stricken areas of the province. Other municipalities have since collected them for their intended purpose.”

By Asanda Nini

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