Residents want mayor with 27 bodyguards gone

2014-03-26 15:15

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Residents of the troubled Mogalakwena municipality in Limpopo have accused government of protecting the heavily guarded mayor who is accused of misspending public money.

The Mogalakwena Residents’ Association yesterday obtained a court order interdicting and restraining the Limpopo cooperative governance, human settlement and traditional affairs (Coghsta) department from placing the municipality under administration as it announced last week.

Mogalakwena Mayor Tlhalefi Mashamaite has been accused in a damning forensic report by KPMG of having used his office and council letterhead to acquire scores of personal bodyguards at a cost of over R1 million. Mashamaite was sometimes seen surrounded by at least 27 heavily armed bodyguards.

At the same time, the council resolved that municipal manager William Kekana, who was at odds with the mayor, would acquire two bodyguards paid for by the municipality.

This was after Mashamaite’s bodyguards prevented Kekana from entering his office when he returned from special leave and after his employment contract was challenged in court last year.

The report said that while Kekana was on special leave, Mashamaite ordered 12 000 T-shirts for a community outreach programme in four separate orders at a cost of R838 000 without following proper procedures.

A month after the release of the KPMG forensic audit report, Mashamaite remains at the helm of Mogalakwena and action still has to be taken against him despite the evidence the report contained.

On Tuesday, Mogalakwena residents marched on Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha’s office and handed him a memorandum demanding the resignation of Mashamaite and other councillors.

They also demanded that Mashamaite be arrested after the KPMG report recommended that criminal charges be laid with the police.

In their memorandum, residents referred to Mashamaite and other councillors allegedly involved in financial irregularities as “criminals” and a “marauding gang of councillors” who loot and interfere with the council administration and who have stopped service delivery.

Coghsta MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe is accused in the memorandum of protecting Mashamaite.

“The MEC has decided to act as a big brother to this gang by interfering in the affairs of the municipality. His delaying tactics open this municipality to looting and losing focus on development,” their memorandum said.

Residents claim in the memorandum that as a result of all the troubles at Mogalakwena, the “communities have now lost R560 million which was meant for water, roads, electricity, sanitation and clinics”.

Meanwhile, Coghsta spokesperson Motupa Selomo denied that the department was protecting anyone.

“Our intervention is aimed at stabilising the municipality first. At the moment, the municipality is not stable and the municipal manager’s employment is illegal and unlawful and we have successfully challenged this in court,” he said.

Kekana had returned to his job as municipal manager after filing his intentions to challenge the court order which nullified his contract.

“We have made an announcement to place Mogalakwena under administration and once that is in place, we’ll get somebody to look into the gist of issues, including the KPMG report,” Selomo said.

“We are holistic and if the mayor did anything wrong, we’ll take action against him or anybody if found in the wrong.”

Selomo said they were going to ask for the court file of the case in which the residents had successfully interdicted the department from placing the municipality under administration. He said they would study its contents before deciding on their next course of action.

Meanwhile, in what may seem like a replay of Tlokwe, North West, where a number of ANC councillors voted for a motion to remove an ANC mayor from his position amid allegations of corruption, at least 25 Mogalakwena councillors were hauled before a disciplinary committee of the ruling party in Limpopo.

The community believes that these councillors are against corruption and are being crucified for being honest.

The group found itself on the wrong side of the ANC for being part of the side that opposes Mashamaite. The councillors supported resolutions to institute forensic audits of municipal finances and were part of a council sitting which employed Kekana.

At least two of the councillors have been expelled from the ANC while others have had their membership suspended for 12 months. A decision was also made that four others be removed from their positions as ANC deployees.

The councillors, however, remain in their positions as their cases still have to be heard by Luthuli House’s national appeals committee.

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