Paraffin for their votes

2018-04-29 06:01
An Economic Freedom Fighters member claims the ANC in JB Marks Municipality refuses to allocate her a stand.Mpoletsang Mekwe says the ANC lured the community with false promises

An Economic Freedom Fighters member claims the ANC in JB Marks Municipality refuses to allocate her a stand.Mpoletsang Mekwe says the ANC lured the community with false promises

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Thousands of poor families in North West say they were seduced by the JB Marks Municipality four years ago, with R58m worth of paraffin in exchange for their votes in the local government elections.

In an alleged attempt to melt voters’ hearts, officials at JB Marks Municipality, previously known as Tlokwe, awarded Future Phambili Petroleum a paraffin tender worth almost R58m.

According to a contract signed and certified on February 20 2016, the aim was to supply 12 000 households with paraffin for a year.

In terms of the agreement, Future Phambili was expected to supply each household with a R165 paraffin stove, a R40 paraffin lantern, a R50 paraffin pump, a R250 fire extinguisher, and 20 litres of paraffin each month for a year.

Now, residents are wondering what happened to all that money, and to their paraffin.

Residents in Extension 7 in Potchefstroom told City Press they received paraffin twice ahead of the 2016 elections, and once afterwards.

They said 12 000 poverty-stricken families were expecting paraffin as stipulated in the contract, but fewer than 1 000 families received supplies.

The community claimed truck drivers working for Future Phambili Petroleum were delivering the remaining paraffin to tuck-shops, where it was later sold to the community members who were supposed to receive it for free.

Community members said some families had received the free paraffin equipment, but others received nothing.

Mpoletsang Mekwe, from “Di-Z” Extension 7, said: “We received paraffin twice in 2016 and once in 2017. They said they are giving us paraffin because people who have properties have electricity but we don’t.

“We told them we don’t want paraffin, we rather want a place to stay.”

A well-known electrical contractor told City Press that electrifying 12 000 shacks would cost about R168m. With the R58m spent on the paraffin project, a quarter of the homes in Extension 7 could have been supplied with electricity connections.

The municipality’s financial report shows that, around January 2015, a subsidy of R1.3m was created to supply 80 kilowatts of electricity for free to 11 775 indigent houses. There was no record of a free paraffin payment.

By the end of June 2016, the report states R1.22m was put aside for free 80kw electricity to 11 099 households, but, again, there are no records for free paraffin.

The community said during campaigns for the local municipal elections, the ANC in JB Marks promised them an allocation of stands, proper toilets, running water, electricity and houses.

However, almost four years later, the ANC hasn’t delivered, resulting in many people still living in the same terrible conditions.

The community said the area is littered with used condoms, which pose a serious health hazard, as does the fact that many living in the Zakhele informal settlement are forced to relieve themselves in bushes because they don’t have toilets.

Mekwe said: “They said we will get houses and that we will be relocated to an area demarcated for building of houses at Zakhele in Ward 26. They gave us paraffin so we would vote for them. They were luring us to vote for the ANC, and we did.

“These people [politicians] are so clever. They come here towards the elections and bring things that are good. They show grace, love, lots of mercy and humbleness. They become soft so they get votes from us.

“We are fools and easily manipulated. But they are not aware this was an eye-opener for us and we have realised they were deceiving us.

“The elections are over. The paraffin is no longer there. It has disappeared. They gave us nothing,” said Mekwe.

Ellen Sesing said: “Towards the elections, people we don’t even know run to us. They come and tell us we will move out of here very soon. But after the votes, they disappear, and they no longer come here.

“They will come again when they want something from us and say: ‘Fools, here is the paraffin for you. Come and vote for us.’ They will lure us to vote for them, and we will vote for them because we are fools.

“When they lie to us they will tell us ‘we have stands for you’. Believing their words, we will collect boxes to pack our belongings to prepare ourselves to leave.

“But when it is time to move out, they disappear. We can’t clean our shacks properly because our belongings are still packed in boxes.

“The packed boxes are kept as is because they told us stands have already been allocated for us, but to date we have not relocated.”

Sesing also said the environment is unhygienic and poses a health threat to children.

“People throw away pills and used condoms in an open area, next to the shacks. Some of our children take the used condoms and chew on the pills.

“My two-year-old son recently found a used condom. Thinking it was a balloon, he put it in his mouth and blew. The other day another child was holding disposed ARVs. Luckily the child did not swallow them. Dead dogs are thrown away anywhere, and you can smell the stench,” said Sesing.

Grievances 

The community members said they do not want to die while living in shacks, and they do not want their children to grow up under such conditions.

Others made the point that while they have registered for stands, mysteriously their names do not reflect in the registration books.

Mekwe said: “They recorded my name in their books. But when it is time to move out, my name disappears from their books. What is removing my name from their books? Is my name a magic one that disappears?”

Community member Tshepo Chempe said: “The municipality claims we have VIP toilets, but there is nothing like that. We don’t have toilets. Most of us use buckets. Some use pit toilets, which they have dug for themselves on the advice of a councillor.

“We are about 4 000 living in Zakhele and we share eight taps. The pressure pump is slow. The municipality claims it installed electricity for us, but there is no electricity.”

Maditaba Mnzami said: “We don’t have toilets and we relieve ourselves in buckets at night. During the day we relieve ourselves in the bushes.

“When I phone the councillor to inform him about these challenges, he drops the phone in my ear. Stands are illegally sold to people for R5 000. I cannot afford to pay R5 000 for a stand.”

A company that specialises in wholesale trading of petroleum products confirmed that the cost of paraffin in February 2015 was around R7.76 a litre. This means the price for 20 litres would have been around R155.20, not the R402.46 Future Phambili was allegedly charging the municipality for 20 litres.

A media enquiry was sent to Future Phambili’s Zane Sayed to establish why the municipality was allegedly charged R402.46 for 20 litres of paraffin. Why did they allegedly supply beneficiaries with paraffin only three times, instead for the full 12 months, as stipulated in their contractual agreement with the municipality?

Why were their drivers allegedly transporting the remaining paraffin to tuckshops that later sold it to the same indigent community members who were supposed to have received it for free?

Instead of responding to the questions, Sayed directed all queries to the municipality. He also did not respond to follow up questions.

Contrary to what is recorded in the contract, JB Marks Municipality spokesperson Willie Maphosa said the municipality had registered almost 3 800 indigent people in the informal settlements and surrounding farms in the Potchefstroom region of JB Marks Municipality who qualified to receive the paraffin.

He said the contract was for a period of three years and the project was funded by the national department of energy.

“The service provider was paid per order lodged with the national department. However, of the 36-month contracted period, the paraffin was delivered only for 17 months. During the other 19 months there had not been any deliveries due to problems with orders.

“The overall total of contracted units was 432 000 but only 51 924 were ordered and therefore 380 076 units were outstanding at the end of the contract,” said Maphosa.

He said: “Consequently, of the R57 954 240 of the contracted amount only R25 905 026.96 was disbursed or subsequently used.

“The project was meant to deliver every month to the informal settlement, but we delivered according to what we could get at a time as the orders often would be delayed or trapped in the municipality’s supply chain logjam.”

Maphosa said deliveries were placed monthly into a secured storeroom before being transported through supply points in the wards.

“This would presumably guard against the stuff being stolen or finding its way to shops. People were then called through the register to come and pick up their monthly rations. Often it would happen that people would not be present.

“We cannot agree that some people were isolated because of their political leanings. This is not the policy of the municipality as we serve all people across political leanings.

“As for the overall status of the contract itself, I cannot say more than this because it is still the subject of contention and possible investigation at council,” said Maphosa.

North West human settlement spokesperson Ben Bole did not respond to questions sent to him by the time of going to print.

A memorandum tabling the communities’ grievances was delivered to Mayor Kgotso Khumalo last week.

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Was this community fooled into voting for the ANC with promises of free paraffin supplies?

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Read more on:    anc  |  service delivery  |  elections

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