One would think a R1.5m construction grader would be hard to miss.
But after almost two years, the government-owned earth-moving machine is nowhere to be found.
What is even more bizarre, however, is how the grader was taken from the Chris Hani district.
Brazen thieves simply walked into the yard of a private citizen tasked with looking after the grader in Mcewula near Komani, hoodwinked the resident by telling him they worked for the transport department, and made off with the vehicle, telling him they wanted to test-drive it.
This emerged in a transport portfolio committee plenary meeting, where the annual report was tabled last week.
MPLs want the transport department to punish the official who left the grader’s keys in the vehicle.
Provincial transport spokesperson Khuselwa Rantjie confirmed a case of theft had been opened.
The insured grader, bought in 2011 for R1.5m, has yet to be replaced.
Rantjie said: “The grader was taken to Mcewula to be tested on a portion of road that had just been repaired. The grader went there loaded on a low-bed (truck). The low-bed operator offloaded it and left. The foreman and the operator made arrangements to store it at a nearby secured yard.
“It is reported that two weeks later a white bakkie with a [Mpumalanga] registration number, according to the gentleman who assisted in the yard, came to pick up the grader under the pretence that they were testing the brakes. A day later the foreman arrived to find the grader missing.”
Five suspects between the ages of 28 and 49 were arrested for the theft, according to Eastern Cape police spokesperson captain Khaya Tonjeni.
“They last appeared in court in August 2020 and the case is being transferred to Whittlesea regional court for commencement of trial,” he said.
However the grader is still missing.
The grader was to be used for maintenance projects in the district.
MPLs recommended the department provide the committee with a detailed report on the investigation and that disciplinary steps be taken against those responsible.
DA MPL Marshall von Buchenroder mocked the ANC’s boastful service delivery slogan “a good story to tell” and highlighted the transport department’s R2.2bn irregular expenditure.
“A construction grader to the value of R1.5m was stolen,” he said. “I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this is a grader; not a motorcycle, not a bike, not a vehicle, but a big, huge machine … that was stolen from a yard.
“MEC, this is mind-boggling. Stop the looting of government assets.”
MEC Nomakhosazana Meth, standing in for transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, thanked the department for the report and welcomed the recommendations.
She said all the issues raised in the plenary sitting were being attended to.