Sannieshof’s cash vanishes in the bras of workers

Welcome to Sannieshof, where the town’s ratepayers are its unofficial mayors.

It’s a North West town where officials used to brazenly stuff people’s car licence fees into their bras and underpants – before abandoning the municipal offices entirely two weeks ago.

Several members of the public wrote to the municipality saying they had witnessed officials stuffing cash into their bras and underpants, while others were seen taking cash from residents and handing the notes to friends to buy lunch.

The sewerage system doesn’t function any more.

The reservoir pumps vanished recently and residents only found out this week they’d been taken to Klerksdorp for maintenance.

Now the Sannieshof Residents and Ratepayers’ Association runs most of the show.

Since 2007, association members have refused to pay their rates to the municipality.

Instead, the money is deposited into a trust account. About 30?000 people live in Sannieshof and neighbouring Agisanang, and about 50% of ratepayers have boycotted the municipality.

A year ago when a transformer exploded, both ANC and DA councillors went cap in hand to the association to ask for R250?000 to have it repaired.

It was either that, they told ratepayers, or the town would be without power for at least two months while they found another way to get the funds.

“People don’t want to come here any more. They drive to Lichtenburg to get their licences because they don’t trust Tswaing [municipality] any more,” says DA councillor Carin Visser.

Even if they did, they wouldn’t find anyone to take their payments. On Thursday morning when City Press visited the licensing department, the offices appeared abandoned.

None of the five cubicles were manned. A sign over each announced that the municipality only accepts cash.

Booming laughter suddenly disturbed the silence and a woman poked her head around a door.

“You will have to go to Delareyville [50km away] if you want to renew your licence,” she said. “They stole all our computers about two weeks ago.

“But you can only pay with cash, they don’t want cheques here. I don’t know why.”

Not all the computers were stolen. A few days later, the offices were broken into again and the remaining machines were doused in tomato sauce.

The official, who refused to give her name, was drinking tea with her friends on mismatched chairs in an office with sagging curtains.

“They don’t work here, it is only me,” she said. “I’m working but there isn’t much to do now.”

There are only two other people in the building apart from the City Press team and Visser.

Two men tell us they work there then wander off.

There is no security in the building and most of the window latches are broken.

Before the computers were stolen and work stopped completely, Sannieshof residents had laid numerous complaints at the municipality against officials they claimed were stealing public funds, says Visser.

At the time of its closure, says Visser, the licensing department was R5 million in arrears and residents wanted to know where their money had gone.

Visser said there were two theories about the recent thefts: vandalism and an attempt last Sunday to burn the building down.

“The municipality has to make a decision on whether it wants to put out a tender for the security of the municipal building.”

Two ANC councillors who refused to be identified say some believed the attacks could be an attempt to destroy evidence before any investigation.

Municipal manager Dion Mere did not respond to email and SMS requests for comment. His phone was switched off this week.

The two ANC councillors said they were deeply unhappy about what was happening in Sannieshof, but could only publicly voice their dissent within ANC structures.

“I love my job,” one told City Press. “And they fire you for speaking out.”

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