5 convicted after R14.8?million tender war

2014-11-09 20:00

Four years after an Mpumalanga municipal manager’s house was petrol-bombed in a war over a R14.8?million tender, four men and a woman have been convicted of the crime.

The five – Mpho Mahlangu (33), Soli Mahlangu (37), Paulos Mthimunye (40), Xolisile Mahlangu (23) and Joseph Shabangu (42) – were found guilty of attempted murder and arson in the Siyabuswa Regional Court last Friday.

They are due to be sentenced in January.

Even the police officer investigating the bombing, Constable Philemon Nkosi, found himself in the firing line. After arresting the five, he was driven off the road by a black Golf and broke his arm.

Nobody has been charged in connection with this incident and the Golf’s driver has not been identified.

Monica Mathibela was the manager of the Dr JS Moroka Local Municipality, whose seat is in Siyabuswa, when the security tender crossed her desk – and her nightmare started.

During this period, Mpumalanga was being rocked by service-delivery protests. Mathibela believes those staged in Siyabuswa were designed to put pressure on her to award the tender to a local businessman.

She followed procurement procedures and awarded the tender to a Limpopo-based company that started work on May 1 2010.

On June 29 2010, her R1.4?million house was torched. Mathibela, her husband and four children escaped unscathed.

The court ruled that the men committed arson in a bid to put pressure on Mathibela over the tender.

Mathibela claims that even the then provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant General Thulani Ntobela, got involved. She alleges that without being asked, Ntobela visited her after the arson – and rather than asking about the investigation, quizzed her about her affiliations in the ANC.

Ntobela’s spokesperson, Colonel Leonard Hlathi, confirmed the visit at the time, but would not explain his boss’s reasons.

A week after her house burnt down, Mathibela, who is also a member of the ANC’s Nkangala regional executive committee, was suspended by the then mayor Inna Masombuka. Mathibela was charged with failing to implement council resolutions and with incurring fruitless expenditure.

Since then she has fought at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and in the labour court to get her job back.

The labour court ruled that she be reinstated, and the matter was taken by the municipality to the CCMA on a technicality. She won there, too, and the case is now in arbitration.

Dr JS Moroka municipal spokesperson Mmasabata Ramatsetse did not respond to calls and text messages.

Mathibela said this week she was “relieved” and wanted to get “my life back”. She now works as the community services director in Limpopo’s Ephraim Mogale Local Municipality.

“I followed procurement procedures to award the tender. Everything was above board and long after I had left, the same company was rehired to continue its work – proving that it had capacity.”

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