Fourteen councillors in North West’s troubled Tlokwe municipality have been reinstated by the ANC after being dismissed in July. A provincial disciplinary committee had found them guilty of misconduct after they participated in a vote of no confidence against former mayor Maphetle Maphetle, in November 2012. The vote was prompted by allegations of corruption against Maphetle. The delay of eight months was one of the reasons that the dismissal was overturned, as this was found to violate the ANC’s constitution.
However, eight of the reinstated councillors have decided to contest the 18 September by-elections as independent candidates. The Independent Electoral Commission has confirmed that the nine vacant wards in Tlokwe would be contested by the eight independents and five different political parties.
Our previous coverage of Tlokwe follows:
By Valencia Talane
In all the damage-control shenanigans that have followed the recent Tlokwe saga, one thing has been clear: Tlokwe municipality in North West will never be the same again, not by a long shot.
Other municipalities in the region have also had their share of political infighting, corruption and maladministration trouble over the past few years.
Much of it has been publicised over time, making the province a den of unruly power-hungry politicians who abuse state resources in their quest for control. The string of reports Corruption Watch has received from graft-weary residents in the province bears testimony to this.
As I write this, a government delegation led by, among others, former national director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelane is on hand to fix whatever they find broken in Tlokwe, Matlosana, Madibeng, Ditsobotla and Maquassi Hills, all of which fall under the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality.
Residents will no doubt be watching with interest for progress, and my guess is the first prize will be to see corrupt municipal officials being brought to book.
Back to unseated Tlokwe mayor Maphetle Maphetle: corruption allegations have twice before threatened his mayorship: once in November last year when the first vote of no confidence was tabled against him by the same council, and prior to that when the ANC’s regional executive recalled him and his Kenneth Kaunda counterpart Boitumelo Moloi, in January of the same year.
The two were accused of corruption and not working in the best interest of the ANC.
The decision to recall them in January of 2012 was overruled by the provincial executive of the party, which said the region had no authority to recall mayors. They were immediately reinstated and the corruption claims only came back to haunt Maphetle during Combrink’s three-month tenure, from November 2012 to February 2013, when she enlisted an audit firm to investigate him.
For a year and a half since his own party first started questioning his conduct, Maphetle continued as mayor of Tlokwe. It is only after a defiant few stood against him that Tlokwe is being treated with the urgency that should be given to all municipalities in South Africa.
The government and the ANC should not have to wait for embarrassing revolts motivated by infighting to bring back order to local government.
Auditor-General Terence Nombembe commented in Parliament’s In Session magazine in April this year that South Africa needs to “professionalise local government; we need people who know how to run the business of local government. We have people who do not know what they are doing, and they are earning millions while relying on consultants to do what they should be doing.”
He went on to say 88% of municipal entities across the country submit information that is far from the truth when accounting for their expenditure. Nombembe has also said that the local government sector is the most corrupt and needs a closer eye on issues of governance. With this in mind, it seems the decision to send in a task team, although commendable, also comes a little too late for communities that could have benefited earlier from well-governed administrations.
Simelane and Silumko Sokupa, fellow advisor to Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, will be joined on the task team by director-general of the public service department Maswahle Diphofu. Simelane will look into issues related to fraud, corruption, and maladministration, according to Independent Online.
As mentioned earlier, they have their work cut out for them if they hope to:
- transform procurement practices for the better
- squash rampant abuse of power by senior officials
- deal firmly with employment policies to avoid occurrences of nepotism and favouritism
- stop excessive or irregular spending
This will mean putting the integrity of North West towns leaders to the test, but does it mean action will be taken against those found guilty, regardless of how connected they are to power within the ANC?
In one of the tip-offs Corruption Watch has received from North West municipalities set to be targeted by the task team, a mayor is alleged to be using a rented vehicle at the cost of over R60 000 per month, despite an official car being available. Add to that hefty bill, a further R42 000 paid by public funds towards a university course that the same mayor has allegedly not attended even once … this shows a clear case of disregard for taxpayers’ money.
In another case sent to us, employees of a second municipality are complaining that senior officials are being selective and abusing their power when it comes to disciplining employees found guilty of misconduct. The reporter alleges that a forensic investigation was ordered as a result of residents’ protests, but only certain people fingered in it have been punished.
The majority of the 20 reports we’ve received on North West municipalities mention the abuse of power and self-enrichment by executive leaders within administrations. Every common indiscretion – from favouritism in the allocation of RDP houses to ignoring local service providers for tenders and unfair employment practices – plague these municipalities.
An argument has been made in the media that the only interest the ruling party has in fixing Tlokwe is related to next year’s general elections. If it means that residents will have what they desperately need in services, I’d call for more Tlokwes across the country, and equally rapid responses in addressing issues.