Municipality used R640 000 to inaugurate mayor

2011-07-09 16:18

The Lejweleputswa district municipality in the Free State chose to spend R600 000 on a lavish mayoral inauguration party instead of extending a job-creation project.

The extension of the project would have put food on the table for 131 families for four months.

The 131 unemployed residents from the Matjabeng local municipality have been part of the Phumlani project that has now abruptly come to an end.

On Wednesday the residents marched to the office of Mathabo Leeto, the new executive mayor of the Lejweleputswa district municipality, demanding to be employed permanently, but instead they were given reference letters.

Leeto says the money for the party was not taken from the poverty alleviation project, despite what the DA in the district claims.

She says it was taken from savings made by not filling three senior management positions.

Leeto says the Phumlani project was supposed to come to an end last year, but she took R300 000 from “the savings” to extend it to the end of the financial year.

She says the district municipality could not afford the project and it was not part of its “core function”.

“I don’t know why everybody is making an issue about the party. Every municipality is doing it – the premier did and the president had one,” says Leeto.

The inauguration party cost the municipality R640 378. Leeto says about 3 000 people attended the event held
at Phakisa.

Khaya Mqeke, communication manager for the municipality, says the event was for all areas in the district and was a once-off event.

Mqeke said some of the payments were:
» R260 980 for catering;
» R174 910 for transport;
» R45 000 for a sound system;
» R9 500 for a photographer;
» R46 500 for programme director gospel singer Deborah Fraser;
» R25 488 for decorations; and
» R7 800 for an unnamed artist.

Leeto said the Phumlani project did not serve the whole district.

“Only the Matjabeng municipality was benefiting from it, while the other municipalities were left out.”

Leeto says the residents involved in the project knew it was only a temporary measure.

An employee of Phumlani said he was desperate and unemployed, and did not know where his family’s next meal would come from.

The project workers were paid a stipend of R1 200 a month for cleaning cemeteries and parks.

A municipal employee says he knew about the party, but did not go.

“The general feeling among us (municipal officers) was that the expense was unnecessary.”

Leeto was also in the news in 2009, when she was mayor of the Matjabeng local municipality, after she built a fence costing about R1 million around her house in Odendaalsrus.

Leeto says she planned to take action against the DA councillor’s claims about the expense.

“I don’t know what are the DA and the media’s problems with me. I am the executive mayor. I can even serve another term and in August during the regional ANC conference, I’m going to run for the position of chairperson of the region again.” 

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