KZN transport officials bust for R7m taxi permit scheme granted bail
Five officials from the KwaZulu-Natal department of transport implicated in selling taxi permits amounting to R7m have been granted bail of R5,000 each.
Sihle Qwabe, 43, Jonas Mhlambi, 61, Khanyi Mbatha, 44, Sabelo Mbatha, 33, and Nkululeko Ncanane, 34, appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Wednesday facing 252 counts of fraud.
Members of the Hawks' Durban serious commercial crime unit pounced on the accused following allegations that they had been allegedly issuing taxi operating permits to taxi operators without proper documents - at a cost of R25,000 per permit.
Hawks spokesperson Capt Simphiwe Mhlongo said the officials were arrested after a case of fraud and corruption was reported at Pietermaritzburg police station.
“The case docket was allocated to Durban's serious commercial crime unit for further investigation. After an intensive investigation the five were arrested and charged,” said Mhlongo.
It is totally unacceptable that officials are abusing their power to serve personal interest.Bheki Ntuli
MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Ntuli welcomed the arrests, emphasising that the abuse of power would not be tolerated within the department.
“It is totally unacceptable that officials are abusing their power to serve personal interest, particularly as this involves the taxi industry, which is marred by violence and instability,” he said.
“Their unscrupulous actions may extend far and beyond fraud and corruption but could include the tragic loss of lives due to disputes over operating permits and routes.”
Ntuli added that special attention is being given to driver licence testing centres and the department is following leads of possible irregularities or acts of criminality in an attempt to gather as much evidence and possible.
“We are making serious interventions in curbing the fraudulent issuing of learner's and driver's licences in driver licence testing centres. This is important in ensuring that we produce competent drivers, who understand the rule of law and who value life,” he said.
The accused are expected back in court on November 9.