The Limpopo provincial government, which is in deep financial crisis, was placed under partial administration by the Cabinet this morning.
The decision was taken at an emergency Cabinet meeting held in Pretoria, according to two government and two ANC sources.
They said the Cabinet, which met to discuss among others the financial crisis that has almost crippled Premier Cassel Mathale’s administration just half-way through the 2011/2012 financial year, resolved to put five key Limpopo departments under administration.
These included the provincial Treasury itself, led by MEC David Masondo, the education department, led by the province’s deputy chairperson, Dickson Masemola, MEC Pinky Kekana’s roads and transport department, Thabitha Mohlala’s public works department and Dikeledi Magadzi’s health and social development department.
Masemola, Mohlala, Masondo and Kekana are staunch Mathale supporters and are part of his camp ahead of the crucial provincial elective conference in two weeks’ time. Magadzi is a known Mathale rival, who was once accused by suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema of hatching a plan to have him and Mathale arrested by the Hawks ahead of the league’s national conference in June this year.
A source said: “That means Masondo and (Nerulal) Ramdharie (head of the provincial Treasury), whom you quoted in your paper on Sunday, won’t be signing cheques anymore. What is going to happen is that they (Cabinet) are going to send in officials to take over the financial administration of these departments.”
The meeting was held a day after City Press reported that Limpopo was cash-strapped, had failed to pay civil servants their over-time monies and imposed stringent austerity measures to try to make up for the budget shortfalls.
City Press also revealed that the province had requested a bailout of at least R700 million or an advance from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, after banks refused to give departments loans because they had exceeded their overdraft facility.
The Cabinet decision flies in the face of claims by Ramdharie that the province had a “favourable” bank balance and had imposed austerity measures as a “pro-active step”.
The measures included cutting by half expenses such as accommodation, over-time, printing, telephone and travel.
The move is likely to be a severe blow to Mathale’s attempt to retain his position as Limpopo ANC chairperson at the conference scheduled for December 17 to 20 at the University of Limpopo outside Polokwane. Mathale is squaring off against Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Joe Phaahla.