Chaos ensues as forum marches to municipality

UMZUMBE small business forum members burned tyres and blocked the entrance to the Umzumbe Municipality, preventing officials from entering the building last Thursday.

During the protest, forum members handed over a memorandum relating to tender contracts. They also demanded that the structure that was elected as the Umzumbe Business Chamber, be dissolved.

Forum chairperson Senzo Ngcobo said some municipal officials had been suspected of awarding tenders to friends and family.

“We had handed over our memorandum and the municipality had responded adequately,” said Ngcobo. He further claimed that the forum had written to the municipality requesting it dissolve the structure but the municipality did not respond.

He said the forum will continue with further disruptions until they get what they have asked for.

Another source claims that municipal manager Nokuthula Mgijima and Local Economic Development manager Mfanafuthi Ngwabe should resign.

Responding to the march, Mayor Sizwe Ngcobo said: “We believe the forum is not engaging us as the municipality in a proper manner.

“The procurement process is legislated and businesses must engage in a competitive bidding process. We cannot just hand out tender contracts,” he said.

The mayor said the people who led last week’s march have existing business contracts with the Umzumbe Municipality.

Other grievances included SMMEs not being “capacitated” by the municipality.

The mayor said the municipality, through its Local Economic Development Business Unit, coordinated an SMME business fare with the intention of empowering local SMMEs. He said the programme was disrupted by the very beneficiaries for whom it was intended.

He further claimed there are programmes planned for local business people and that 30% of the budget is ring-fenced for local emerging contractors.

Regarding the forum’s allegations that Mgijima is awarding municipal jobs to friends and relatives, the mayor said forum members must provide proof of these allegations before they can be investigated.

“There is no clause in the municipal recruitment policy that prohibits the appointment of relatives, provided they are appointed on merit,” he added.