September 25, 2017

News:

ANC councillors defy

the-weekly-sl1
Chabeli Phatsoane Lefa Lekhula

Chabeli Phatsoane                                                                    Lefa Lekhula

 . . . Councillors, officials accused of flexing muscles and influencing awarding of tenders to line their pockets as residents cry for development

Mohokare Local Municipality in Xhariep District in the Free State is suffocating under a myriad of challenges amidst growing public discontentment and allegations that some councillors are working in cahoots with council officials and the opposition to flex their muscles and influence the awarding of lucrative tenders in a bid to line their pockets.

Two of the councillors, Lefa Lekhula and Chabeli Phatsoane, have been accused of blatantly undermining the ruling ANC by defying its regional caucus and the MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta), Sisi Ntombela.

Sources this week said the chicanery tendencies by the councillors and officials threaten to cripple the operations of the municipality, already grappling with high unemployment and other attendant social problems.

The sources further claimed the continued bickering at the council was also negatively affecting service delivery and the livelihoods of the local community.

They added that pervasive indiscipline by Lekhula and Phatsoane has seen them siding with the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance.

The Weekly is in possession of a tape recording of Lekhula addressing an EFF meeting in his capacity as a member of the party, in the run up to last year’s local government elections.
He is heard in the recording discussing strategies that the EFF should employ to defeat the ANC in the same polls.
A member of the ANC Regional Task Team, Soloki Nqunguthu, said they were aware of the defiance of the two councillors.

He said that a meeting with them would be held on Monday next week to establish what was going on in the municipality.

According to sources close to the proceedings, after the contract of the Mohokare municipal manager Thabo Panyane expired in January, the MEC seconded the department’s deputy director general, Sipho Thomas, to act as municipal manager pending the appointment of a capable candidate to fill the vacancy.

“Panyane had vacated office unceremoniously after mayor Irene Mehlomakhulu declined to extend his contract. The mayor did not see eye to eye with the municipal manager who had resisted attempts to be arm-twisted into alleged undue and improper financial transactions such as using municipal coffers to buy her a R1-million private house,” the sources claimed.

Mohokare Local Municipality mayor Irene Mehlomakhulu could not be reached for comment on the allegations this week as she was said to be in Portugal on official business.

However the sources said the ANC caucus resolved that the mayor should call a council meeting to appoint a new municipal manager on April 26 to discuss Thomas’ departure.

“However, she (Mehlomakhulu) ignored this directive of the caucus, prompting ANC councillors to submit a motion to have the meeting convened on May 2. The caucus had taken a decision to propose to the council meeting that it requests the MEC to extend deputy director general Thomas’ secondment and municipal manager for another three months,” they noted.

“At the May 2 meeting the mayor, Lekhula and Chabeli connived with the opposition – made up of the Democratic Alliance and the EFF – and appointed the municipal director-corporate services, Limakatso Nqoko, as acting municipal manager. This was contrary to the official position of the ANC caucus in the region.

“With the ANC councillors vetoing the appointment of Nqoko as acting municipal manager, chaos erupted which forced the council meeting to be ended prematurely and adjourned to May 4,” they added.

The sources also said on May 4 the municipality received a letter from the MEC, extending the secondment of Thomas to Mohokare.

“By then, the damage was already done. At the same May 2 council meeting Mehlomakhulu had imposed Lekhula to serve as acting mayor as she was due to leave for Portugal for two weeks.”

The sources pointed out that the appointment of Lekhula as acting mayor was illegal, citing the Municipal Structures Act 117 of 2008 stipulated that an acting mayor is appointed by council and not the mayor alone.

Two days later, they continued, Lekhula as acting mayor called service providers interested in purchasing municipal properties to present their offers to him.

“This is a glaring anomaly and irregularity, because it is the administrative brief of the accounting officer to meet with service providers in this manner,” the sources maintained.

“On May 5, Nqoko – who was a mere three days into office – abruptly called evaluation and adjudication committee meetings to decide on the awarding of all municipal tenders. This included tenders that are technical and complicated, and need time to prepare. They were expected to work through the weekend to finalise these tenders.

“However, the meeting did not go ahead as planned because some officials refused to attend it while others did not report for work,” the sources also claimed.

The sources said the councillors were determined to get rid of anyone who appears to stand in their way, hence their resolve to block the appointment of the deputy director general as acting municipal manager.

Lekhula rubbished claims of colluding with the opposition to topple the ANC in the municipality, saying he remained a member of the ruling party.

Allegations of Lekhula and Phatsoane colluding with the opposition arose shortly after they voted with both EFF and DA, who have two seats each in the council, to ensure the proposal of the NAC caucus is defeated.

However, Lekhula said the contract for Thomas, who is also the deputy director in the provincial department of Cogta, had ended hence the municipality called for a council meeting where Dimakatso Nqoko was appointed as acting municipal manager.

He said the reason he supported the two opposition parties was because Thomas’ contract had ended on April 30 and they had not received a letter from Ntombela, on time demanding he be retained as municipal manager.

“It was going to be against the standing rules of the committee to bring in an issue of this nature through the backdoor. There was an agenda set for that particular sitting. This is not a kangaroo court. It would have been had we done so,” Lekhula said.

In a surprise twist to the goings on at the municipality, another special council meeting has been called for Tuesday next week where Thomas is expected to be reinstated by the MEC.

Strong grounds
A Mohokare Local Municipality councillor, Kwaito Valashiya, said on Wednesday they have strong grounds to believe that some ANC councillors were working in cahoots with the opposition to undermine decisions of the ANC in the municipality by voting with the opposition on serious council matters.

According to another councillor who requested anonymity, the reason why Thomas was not retained as municipal manager after his contracted ended was because of the unanimous decision by the council.

“We wanted to spare ourselves the embarrassment of being outvoted as the ANC even though we are in charge of the council with council council seats,” said the councillor.

On that day, two ANC councillors voted with the EFF and the DA who respectively have two seats in the council to have Thomas removed.

“This was an act of defiance from people who claim to be party members,” he added, stating that a collective decision was taken at the ANC caucus to vote in favour of Thomas.
The sources suggested that the removal of Thomas was done so that some people could milk the council purse.

“When we called for a special council meeting to have Thomas’ contract extended, the mayor was unavailable which led to the sitting not going through,” said the source, who added that the mayor immediately availed herself on Tuesday where the council decided to appoint Dimakatso Nqoko as acting municipal manger.

“This is no coincidence, the mayor and the two councillors are there for self-enrichment hence anyone who is not in their support has been shown the door,” the source said.
Deficiencies
Cogta HOD Mokete Duma confirmed that a letter was written and sent to the municipality explaining reasons why Thomas’ contract should be extended.

However, the council claimed that the letter arrived two days after they had their special council meeting where Nqoko was appointed municipal manager.

According to Duma’s letter, the MEC clearly articulated why the position was not to be occupied by council administration officials.

“We need to correct some of the deficiencies in that municipality; we need someone outside the municipality who will be objective, hence an outsider is to act in that position,” he pointed out.

Duma added that the MEC wrote another letter in which she instructed the council to call a special sitting where Thomas is to be reinstated as acting municipal manager.
The sitting will take place on Tuesday at the Mohokare Council Chamber.

The Weekly sources further claimed after the appointment of the current acting mayor and acting municipal manager through the support of opposition, the EFF immediately submitted a memorandum where amongst other things, they demanded an immediate reinstatement of the former director of the infrastructure department, Mahlomola Tsoamotse, who was dismissed for not having relevant qualifications.

They said this demand by EFF came as no surprise because the current acting municipal manager is reportedly well-known for his funding of EFF programs and has a close relationship with one of the EFF leaders in the Free State.

The same sources also noted the acting mayor and acting municipal manager were also in discussions with one of SAMWU shop stewards based in Zastron to incite SAMWU members and workers in general to embark on a strike once the former manager is reinstated.

“This shop steward is the same one who was suspended by the former municipal manager for misconduct and incitement of workers to embark on illegal industrial activities and later reinstated through negotiated settlement between the union and ANC,” they pointed out.

One of the senior council employees, chief financial officer Jonase Phakamisa is alleged to have received a ‘brown envelop’ to influence the award of a tender for the refurbishing of boreholes and installing new ones in the area.

The tender is reportedly worth between R3 million and R4 million, according to council insiders.

The allegation emerged after one of the council employees reported that he saw Phakamisa being given an envelope by a well-known service provider in the area.

The ‘inducement’ was allegedly to ensure that the tenderer’s application was processed despite being submitted a day after the closing date.

Asked to respond to the matter, Phakamisa vehemently denied the allegations, saying he has never received any money from a service provider.

He contended there were people trying to dent his image hence the malicious allegations against him.

“I really don’t know what to say…This is nothing but a way for some people to ruin me and my name,” he added.

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