Madonsela to probe tribes’ lost millions

2012-02-11 15:57

 Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is investigating claims that two mineral-rich North West communities have not received millions in mining royalties owed to them.

The Bakwena ba Mogopa and Bapo ba Mogale claim that ­government officials are looting and mismanaging their trust ­accounts in which hundreds of millions of rands of their wealth is held. They have asked Madonsela to investigate allegations of, among others, fraud, mismanagement and corruption.

The two communities occupy land in the Madibeng district between Hartbeespoort and Brits, which has vast deposits of platinum, vanadium and other mineral deposits. The Bapo ba Mogale community alone has mineral resources worth R10?billion, over which mining firms Lonmin, ­International Ferro Metals, ­Samancor Chrome and Finstone Granite own mining or ­prospecting rights.

But the two communities ­allege that they can’t access their money, that the government has ignored their pleas for help and that communities don’t benefit from their land.

The North West Traditional Leadership and Governance Act prescribes that the income from tribal communities
should be deposited into “D accounts” held by the ­provincial government.

The premier is the custodian of this money. Government must ensure that communities receive the proceeds to assist with development and can ­intervene when there is evidence of maladministration.

A 2010 forensic report, ­carried out on behalf of the Bakwena ba Mogopa, claimed that there were “serious gross violations in the procurement and usage of traditional ­communities’ money”.

North West held more than 800 D accounts worth R550?million, including ­apartheid-era accounts.

The provincial government still manages trust accounts for the “Bophuthatswana Independent Celebrations” and the “Plaaslike Bantoe-owerheid (Local Bantu Authority)”.

The Bakwena ba Mogopa tribe has R58?million in four ­accounts, while the Bapo ba Mogale has about R400?million in several others – their income from the mining houses.

Hugh Eiser, lawyer for the Bapo ba Mogale traditional council, says: “The premier, the MEC and the North West ­officials have done as they pleased with the community’s money, while the community, which owns the money, is kept in the dark.”

North West Premier Thandi Modise rejected the allegations, saying all D accounts were managed by the provincial treasury. She said the provincial government was not responsible for running the traditional councils and could only take over the ­administration if a council was unable to run its own affairs.

She regarded the Bakwena ba Mogopa as stable and said ­allegations about its affairs were false.

Modise said there was ongoing intervention in the Bapo ba Mogale’s affairs, but this had been ­requested by the royal family.

Since July 2010, this community has obtained four court ­orders against the premier and her government, which Eiser claims they have simply ignored.

»?The North Gauteng High Court ruled that the traditional council had the power to ­remove a chief executive who was appointed by the government administrator because it was the highest decision-making community leadership structure.

»?The North West High Court ordered the premier to pay the salaries of the traditional ­council members and the ­community’s creditors, which the government had stopped paying for months.

»?The same court ruled that the traditional council had the right to work from the ­community’s offices in Bapong after a government administrator locked them out.

»?The court, in a different case, also ruled that the ­traditional council was the governing body of the community and not the royal house.

Eiser said: “The premier is the custodian and trustee of the communities’ money. She has grossly abused her fiduciary ­obligation and is causing the community loss and exposure to loss.”

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