Mayor fears his people

2013-02-03 10:00

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Four guns, armed bodyguards, pepper spray and regular patrols are not enough to protect Sasolburg Mayor Brutus Mahlaku.

He refused to address residents of Zamdela township on January 20 just before violent protests erupted – despite the fact that his security costs his ratepayers R1.1?million a year.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi, who visited Zamdela last week, said councillors received a security alert, which led to the decision not to attend the January 20 meeting.

Baloyi said “only God knows” whether or not the councillors would have returned alive.

The municipality has been paying for protection services for Mahlaku’s property and VIP services and family protection, which includes four firearms, radios, pepper sprays and car patrols. These have all had to be provided after he was returned to power following the 2011 local government elections.

Internal Metsimaholo documents seen by City Press show that the municipality pays about R90?000 a month to Bosele Security.

Many of these payments to Bosele Security were declared irregular expenditure by the municipality.

The correct procurement processes were not followed in hiring the company and the decision was not approved by the council, said DA caucus chairperson Johan Geyser.

Last week, the Free State town came to a standstill after residents, angered by their councillors’ failure to attend the meeting, went on the rampage, looting shops, burning tyres and vandalising property.

Lucky Malebo, chairperson of the Concerned Residents of Metsimaholo group, said they expected all 42 councillors to attend the January 20 meeting at the local stadium and explain the proposed merger between their municipality and Ngwathe municipality in Parys.

In a letter sent to council speaker Sello Matena and copied to Geyser and the area’s ANC chief whip Thandi Soetsang, the residents group told the councillors to come and explain themselves.

Only Geyser and DA caucus manager Koos Grobler attended.

Responding to the group’s letter, Matena said he was busy meeting all stakeholders about the proposed merger.

“We will be conducting ward meetings at which we will explain some of the issues raised in your letter and the community will be part of those meetings,” Matena said.

Geyser believes Mahlaku and other ANC councillors did not attend because they were scared.

He said, at a special council meeting on Wednesday, that Mahlaku and Matena blamed him and Grobler for the trouble but later apologised.

Meanwhile, the municipality has declared that about R450?000 spent on Mahlaku’s inauguration in 2011 was irregular expenditure.

Mahlaku’s spokesperson Gino Alberts did not respond to requests for comment.

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