Mayor with 27 bodyguards back in hot seat

The Limpopo provincial government has re-elected Tlhalefi Mashamaite as mayor of the embattled Mogalakwena municipality despite forensic auditors recommending that criminal charges be laid against him.

Mashamaite, who made headlines when he spent more than R1 million of the council’s money on 27 personal bodyguards, as revealed by the KPMG forensic report, was reappointed mayor in a rather unusual council meeting held at a local lodge in Mokopane today.

He was elected in a council meeting convened by Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs MEC and Limpopo ANC deputy secretary Makoma Makhurupetje.

Mashamaite, accompanied by a throng of police and flanked by bodyguards wielding automatic rifles, arrived at the council offices where the meeting was initially set to be held but found the gates locked.

The provincial head of the South African Local Government Association, Thapelo Matlala, announced that he had been designated to chair the meeting and that it would then be held at Oasis Lodge a few kilometres away, since they could not access council chambers.

At the meeting, which happened under Makhurupetje’s watchful eye, Mashamaite was elected mayor and immediately took his position at the front.

The ANC and Limpopo government were previously criticised for allowing maladministration and corruption to happen with impunity following the lack of action against Mashamaite after the damning forensic report implicated him in public funds misuse.

The ANC and the cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs department have always maintained that they were still studying the KPMG report as well as other reports into Mogalakwena before they could act.

Now, a year later, Makhurupetje is being criticised as the driving force behind the reinstatement of Mashamaite.

The latter was removed as mayor by 22 ANC councillors with the support of opposition parties. The 22 councillors were expelled by the ANC but remained defiant when asked to vacate their positions. One of them is William Mabuela, who replaced Mashamaite as mayor.

Mabuela said it was illegal for Makhurupetje to convene a council meeting, saying only the municipal manager had legal powers to do so. He said the 22 councillors were victimised because they were against corruption and out to expose it.

“Our sin was to commission KPMG, who exposed [Mashamaite]. People are driven by an uncontrollable desire to amass wealth and they’re not considering the law when they do other things because all they think of is money,” said Mabuela.

“There are mines around Mogalakwena and comrades want shares and tenders there. These are business people and they want a mayor and municipal manager who will award contracts to their preferred companies.”

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what will happen at Mogalakwena local municipality tomorrow when Mashamaite reports for duty as mayor while Mabuela still occupies the office.

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