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Around 20 police and private security officers, hostage negotiators, a police sniffer dog and one of Grahamstown’s top detectives were deployed to the High Street, Grahamstown premises of Makana Municipality’s Finance Department.
This happened after a supplier owed money for services vented his frustration on chief financial officer (CFO) Nontobeko Siwahla by securing the front doors with a heavy chain and padlock, before heading for her to demand payment.
When Grocott’s Mail arrived at the Budget and Treasury Department shortly before 11am on Wednesday 8 March, police and Hi-Tec Security were cordoning off the area around the front of the building. Around half a dozen officers were outside, and as many inside, along with several security guards.
Lieutenant-Colonel Monray Nel, head of SAPS Grahamstown Visible Policing, told Grocott’s Mail that the situation had in fact been resolved by the time the police arrived.
“They locked the front doors and put a heavy padlock on it and said they weren’t leaving the CFO until they got paid,” Nel said.
Negotiations between the parties had resolved the situation.
“They removed the lock and allowed us in. As you can see the building is now open.
“No force was necessary and no member of the public was in any danger,” Nel said, less than 20 minutes after the building had been secured.
“However, because it was reported to us as a hostage situation, protocol meant we had to bring in hostage negotiators and other specialists.
“We stand by the law, and an unlawful action such as this, no matter what the frustration was that caused it, will not be tolerated.”
Patrol and explosives detector dog Tarrik, a five-year-old Labrador-Rottweiler cross, was brought in by his handler Constable Lesley Jack as part of the protocol for securing the building after the incident.
Captain Mzwandile Maleki from the Joza Detectives was called in; however, no charge was laid and he left.
On social media, witness Sithembele Ka-Tutuse said he had been inside the building throughout the incident and that the situation had been calm.
“A service provider was there to demand payment of services rendered,” Ka-Tutuse wrote. “They closed and locked the front door but kept the back door opened for anyone who wanted to leave.
“They had no guns but just wanted attention and payment. Everyone inside continued to work during that period and saw no need to flee.
“Hi-Tec came on the scene and spoke to the service provider and later called the cops for backup. When the police arrived the matter was already resolved and the doors were opened.
“I was inside during this whole fiasco,” Ka-Tutuse posted on Facebook.
In a statement later, Makana Municipality confirmed the incident.
Spokesperson Yoliswa Ramokolo said, “The service provider who has forced his way into the Finance Department [Wednesday] has apologised for their behaviour and promised not to do it again.”
Ramokolo confirmed that the municipality owed the supplier just under R200 000 for services they had provided to the municipality.
“Payment processes were explained to supplier. They were also advised to call the CFO directly should they not be satisfied with Finance services rather than disturb the whole municipality,” Ramokolo said.
“The CFO has also promised to make a followup and check payment status from Expenditure and Supply Chain Management office and provide feedback to the supplier.”
Shortly after the incident, Grocott’s Mail was directed by witnesses to a person sitting in a waiting area at the Finance department, who said he was from the Makana Development Trust.
He gave his name and said he was involved in the incident but could comment only after discussions with the municipality had been concluded.
Subsequent calls to the person went unanswered.