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Unicity council staff under surveillance 24/01/2001

By Phumi Nhlapo

Durban unicity's council employees are being put under surveillance by private security companies hired by the council to monitor their movements while on duty in the field.

This came to light after an arbitration award was won in December by Grineth Mageba, a council employed development facilitator, and made available to The Mercury by her attorney.

In Mageba's arbitration award, the council's development and planning unit was ordered to desist from such a practice Her movements were tracked for six days at a cost of R7 200 Unions were also challenging the council on the general practice of using private security companies and had referred to this as a "cloak and dagger" approach.

In Mageba's case, the unit was said to have hired former security policemen to monitor her movements, which was a "reprehensible and unreasonable" move, according to the arbitrator, which created a threat to her life and amounted to a violation of her privacy.

The unit's human resources director, G G Taylor, was said to have procured the services of the former security policemen after a request by Mageba's manager, Dean Botha, to establish what she was doing on a daily basis.

A surveillance report addressed to Botha from Lane & Associates showed that Mageba's movements had been tracked over six days at a cost to the council of R7 206,62.

However, Mageba's attorney, Themba Ngxingweni, said that Mageba believed she had been under surveillance for about 18 months.

Raymond van Staden, owner of Lane & Associates, denied he or any of his staff had been former security branch policemen. He admitted his company had been hired by the metro council to conduct a surveillance on Mageba.

The South African Municipal Workers' Union's branch secretary, Bill Govender, said the union had received complaints about surveillance of field workers in the council's water department and had taken up the issue with the management.

The Unicity's mayor, Obed Mlaba, said the council had seven different units which had their own operational policies, which made it difficult for him to comment without obtaining more information.

Taylor, to whom The Mercury had also sent questions on Tuesday, had not responded at the time of going to press.

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