By Valencia Talane
Away from the political power drama that has made Tlokwe municipality in North West a hot topic recently, is the story of a small town – like many others in South Africa – where service delivery is seen to be compromised by corruption and non-accountability in the eyes of the community.
At the centre of the ruckus are corruption claims against recently ousted mayor Maphetle Maphetle, who has now been replaced by councillor Annette Combrink – for the second time in eight months.
When Combrink was first appointed Tlokwe mayor in November last year, she requested an investigation into irregularities there, including a council splurge on a customised Mercedes-Benz for Maphetle when he was still mayor.
The forensic investigation found that the council had spent R736 000 on the vehicle – some R36 000 over the allocated budget.
It also found there was dodgy spending in a R34-million project to upgrade a local airport runway ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup – a refurbishment Maphetle had persuaded the council to take on. Read the full report here.
Far from all this, though, is concerned ward committee member Tebogo Mokobane*, who represents a community living in government-issued houses in a certain Tlokwe township.
Mokobane recently tipped off Corruption Watch about senior municipal officials there abusing their power, which, he said, had instilled a fear of the unknown among locals with regard to their future.
According to Mokobane, the allocation of government-issued houses has been a problem for many years in the area.
One dispute, he says, is over an RDP stand that was “created” at the end of a street and allegedly allocated with the involvement of a certain councillor, whose name was reported by Mokobane to Corruption Watch.
Mokobane claims that several attempts by the community to get a representative of the council to explain the “created” stand have been unsuccessful.
“A community meeting was called to question why there is now a house on that land, when three people had previously applied to the council to occupy that piece of land and were denied,” Mokobane said. “Now there is someone staying there and despite our demands for answers, the council has not given us feedback.”
Although he would not comment on whether the political rifts at the top trickle down to the community-engagement level of which he is part, Mokobane did say the town’s leadership needs to take a step back and decide on how best they can develop the community in future.
The acting MEC for local government in North West, Manketse Tlhape, last week gave an update of the intervention by her department in the province’s most troubled municipalities, including Tlokwe.
According to media reports, a government delegation will visit several municipalities with the aim of developing a turnaround strategy for their administrations. Corruption Watch will keep you posted on developments.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.