Net closes on Limpopo’s crooked rich

2013-11-03 10:00

Hawks probe millionaire tenderpreneurs and the officials who were on their payroll.

It was an era of triple-storey mansions, and mushrooming car dealerships and designer clothing stores.

Expensive whisky flowed in the paradise that Polokwane had become for its new millionaires.

But now, as investigations intensify into the government contracts struck between the instant millionaire tenderpreneurs and the officials they paid to secure them, half-built mansions remain unfinished, the flashy cars have vanished and the Hollywood lifestyle of Polokwane’s wealthy has become a thing of the past.

Law enforcement agencies are on the hunt for hundreds of millions of rands that provincial administrators have been unable to find.

These administrators had arrived at the behest of the national government in 2011 after the provincial government had landed up more than R2?billion in the red.

More than 300 cases of maladministration and corruption are being investigated and they involve more than 80 senior government managers.

The Hawks have arrested 50 people so far in connection with looting the province’s coffers. Among those charged were Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and his friend Boy Mamabolo.

Also charged was former Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale’s wife Mokgadi Kgohloane, who secured many state contracts but was arrested for mining illegally without a permit.

Although the Hawks are keeping the identities of their suspects under wraps, the subjects of their probes know who they are.

Unit spokesperson Paul Ramoloko said those in their sights included politicians and senior government officials, and those who had left government.

“We’re investigating cases bit by bit and once we’ve secured a court date, we inform those implicated and take them to court.

“We work differently in that we don’t investigate people without their knowledge and pounce on them unexpectedly and arrest them,” Ramoloko said.

“We have made notable progress in the past year and we’re definitely going to arrest more people besides those individuals, including company owners who were already facing charges in court.”

Ramoloko would not reveal any names, but a source close to the investigations said two or three former and current MECs and other politicians were being investigated and could be arrested very soon.

Senior government officials are also feeling the heat.

The province’s director-general, Rachel Molepo-Modipa, was sent home on a precautionary suspension this week. She is expected to be hauled before a disciplinary committee on charges that include maladministration.

In addition, the province’s cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs department has suspended nine officials for their role in the crooked awarding of a R900?million RDP housing contract to companies linked to Malema.

Also on suspension are heads of departments like cooperative governance and traditional affairs’ Nana Manamela and education’s Morebudi Thamaga.

They have been asked to stay at home and await disciplinary hearings into maladministration in their departments.

But politics is never far away and new Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has vowed to rid the province of its rotten apples.

To many, this means that he will rid it of those close to Mathale, under whose watch the looting took place.

Meanwhile, the poor continue to suffer.

There are critical water shortages, children are forced to learn under trees and there is an absence of vital equipment in many hospitals in the province.

DA provincial leader Desiree van der Walt said: “We can only hope that Limpopo returns to its former glory?...?and not a mafia province as it was portrayed at the height of the looting.

“I hope these investigations will not only lead to the arrests of junior officials who will not be able to afford to pay back a cent, but the company owners and politicians who robbed poor communities of the millions that were meant to better their lives.”

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