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By Valencia Talane

Despite the release of the ANC’s parliamentary list this week, which is peppered with discredited politicians, today we have decided to recognise heroes rather than zeroes for the week.

If all citizens who fall victim to corrupt public officials were to report crimes committed against them, there would be progress in the effort to rid the public sector of bad apples that prey on the innocent.

Two cases reported in the Independent Online this week relate to action taken by small businesses against municipal officials and a police official – they were arrested because their alleged victims took a stand.

These business owners are our heroes for this week for refusing to engage in corrupt practices and taking those involved to task so that they face the consequences of their actions.

In Tshwane, two officials working for the municipality pleaded guilty in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court for attempting to bribe a local businessman. The pair admitted to offering to write off the debt on his electricity and water bill – which is in arrears and stands at R1.4-million – in exchange for a R120 000 fee. Mongamola Ramaphakela and Matsobane Masekela were arrested in December last year for the crime and have now been ordered to appear in court on 6 May for sentencing, according to the report.

Ramaphakela and Masekela had made an agreement with the businessman after his water and electricity had been cut off by Ramaphakela. They were unaware of a plan to trap them, hatched by the businessman with the help of police.  

The accused showed the businessman copies of his existing water and electricity account, followed by a new one which reflected a zero balance. The three men met at a parking lot to exchange the accounts for the money, and the two officials were then arrested.  

The City of Tshwane has an anti-corruption hotline that is managed by auditing firm KPMG, according to spokesperson Blessing Manale. Residents can contact the City on 080 874 9263 to report corrupt behaviour.

In another instance, a police officer at the Langlaagte police station was arrested by the Hawks on Thursday for corruption after he allegedly solicited bribes from a business owner in the area in return for protection.

According to the businessman, who owns a truck repair workshop in Langlaagte, he had already paid Tumelo Sena over R22 000 after the officer started harassing him, demanding money for his protection after he was arrested for allegedly holding a man at gunpoint.

The case against the businessman was dropped because it was too weak, but Sena came to his business nonetheless, demanding money for his protection.

Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramaloko said his unit had conducted preliminary investigations after they were alerted to allegations of corruption against Sena.

“Following the investigations, we were very convinced that this member was involved in corrupt activity. Our preliminary investigations revealed that he received R22 900 from a businessman,” Ramaloko explained.  

The businessman is reported to have approached the Hawks directly, before writing a letter to an SAPS commissioner in the province to make his claims against Sena. “I could not take this anymore and approached the Hawks directly to try and help me. The captain phones me every single day, including Saturdays and Sundays, demanding money,” read a part of his letter.

Our heroes today are business owners who have decided to tackle corruption in their communities by reporting government officials who tried to solicit money from them in exchange for services.