Questions about eThekwini staff trying to remove donations at Virginia Airport ‘won’t go away’

A Durban woman, who took a video claiming that municipal staff stole donations destined for rescue teams searching for flood victims, is standing by her theft allegation.

 Screenshots of the video made by Vanessa Knight that has since gone viral.

In a viral video Vanessa Knight can be heard claiming that eThekwini Municipality employees are stealing donated goods intended for search and rescue workers stationed at Virginia airport.

“The driver was not stealing. She is one of our employees in the Community Participation Unit and is assigned to deliver donations to one of the townships,” says municipal spokesperson, Msawakhe Mayisela.

Speaking to Northglen News on Tuesday, Knight, chairman for the Ward 36 Ratepayers Association, said she received a call from the sister of a rescue worker who said they were sleeping in the hangers at the airport and needed food and aid.

The Daily Maverick reported that Virginia Airport is being used as a base for rescue workers, who arrived from all over the country to search for missing and assist displaced flood victims.

“Numerous businesses and individuals came on board and sponsored juice, fruit, water and the like for the rescue workers,” says Knight.

“We received an influx of donations which we knew were going to be too much for the rescue workers alone, so we made relief packs for the communities affected by the floods.

“The rescue staff were to take them with during assignments and hand them out to the different communities,” adds Knight.

On Monday afternoon she received a call from committee members at the airport who said eThekwini Municipality staff were removing the hampers.

“I immediately went to the airport to see what was happening. I questioned the staff and they couldn’t give me a straight answer as to where the mandate to take the hampers came from,” says Knight.

She says her last resort to stop them was to park her car in front of their vehicles and take a video.

The staff left with the hampers but returned with the goods about 20 minutes later after one of the rescue crew members made call to the municipality.

“I will not retract anything. The staff were taking something that does not belong to them, that is theft. Why did they return it if it was meant for the municipality’s donation drives?” she asks.

DA Ward 36 councillor, Shontel de Boer, says the matter must be investigated.

“On whose authority were the officials instructed to travel to Virginia Airport and load up these donations? If the officials were genuinely there to collect some other donations, why did they not make some simple enquiries as to where those donations may be? If indeed the municipality believes the rescue packs ‘belong’ to the city – why did they return them?” she asks.

“Perhaps it was a case of miscommunication, but surely courteous dialog from the outset would have helped establish what belongs to who. The whole incident has been escalated to our most senior people [within the DA], including members of both the Provincial Legislature and Parliament.  There are still many questions and answers that need to be ventilated in this matter. It won’t be left to go away,” said de Boer.

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