On the road: ANC in Mangaung accused of 'punishing' opposition party wards by withholding services

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article

The ANC-run Mangaung metro has been accused of using its administrative powers to "punish" wards where people voted for the DA.

It is alleged that basic resources were withheld, frustrating the communities. 

Out of 50 wards, 38 are ANC-run. Reporters Juniour Khumalo and Kayleen Morgan travelled to the metro to get a sense of what everyday life is like for residents. 

Since 2016, the Auditor-General (AG) has consistently noted that the embattled Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality's financial position deteriorated so much so that conditional grants were diverted to fund operational activities.

The urban settlements development, municipal disaster recovery and the public transport network grants are no longer entirely directed towards what they are meant for: the provision of basic services for communities. 

While all 50 wards are suffering equally, communities that chose to no longer vote for the ANC due to its failures seem to be bearing the brunt of this.

READ | Elections 2021: All you need to know

One ward where people claim to have been subjected to "ruthless ANC tactics" is Ward 16 in Heidedal - a mainly coloured suburb. Their disillusionment and attempt to escape the shackles of the ANC's continued failures is arguably epitomised by the erection and sprawling growth of the Gatvol informal settlement in Heidedal.

When News24 visited the area  this week as part of its extensive coverage of the state of municipalities ahead of the municipal elections, residents said that there was no informal settlement there eight years ago. Today, Gatvol is the size of two soccer fields.

The emergence of Gatvol

The informal settlement was established in 2013 when communities, gatvol (fed up) with the lack of housing opportunities from the government, decided to erect their own shelters instead.

Heidedal is one of the few communities where RDP houses have never been built. Residents decided to occupy a vacant piece of land, forming Gatvol.

Their dissatisfaction showed in 2016 when they voted for the DA, said former Heidedal councillor, John de Bruyn. 

Bianca* has been a Gatvol resident since its establishment eight years ago. 

"Vote, they said. Your lives will be better."

The 45-year-old mother of four said:

What a fallacy that has turned out to be. All [politicians] do after [people vote] for them is to put a little jam on our lips so that we can taste how good it is. Then they keep the entire bottle in which the jam comes in so that we can keep coming back to them for aid.

According to Bianca, after communities "reached their limit" with the ANC and decided to vote for the DA, they expected more progress, "as was the case in other DA-run municipalities".

"This was, unfortunately, not the case. There were a few developments, if I may even call them that. We got one much-needed streetlight as this area gets exceedingly dark and criminals use the darkness to commit crimes. That was all we managed to get from the DA in their almost three years in power and when the by-elections came along in 2019, the Patriotic Alliance, as a means of campaigning, installed two taps that service the hundreds of people who live in this...overpopulated area," she said. 

ALSO READ | Ramaphosa promises Cape voters the ANC will 'respond to the needs of people'

To prove how dire their living conditions are, she told News24 that she used to have "a decent sized L-shaped shack" for herself and her children. But it burnt down in 2018. 

Residents of Ikgomotseng in Mangaung say they have
Residents of Ikgomotseng in Mangaung say they have given up hope in politicians because no change comes after elections.
News24 Kayleen Morgan

"Because I have been unemployed since I moved here, I found what I could and used it as building material," she said. Her shack is made of asbestos material, wood and plastic bags.  

Now she has a significantly smaller shack and as a result, her 15-year-old son has been forced to sleep in what can only be described as something resembling a homemade dog kennel. About one-and-a half metres long, 50 centimetres wide and nearly 60 centimetres high, the son's structure is made of corrugated sheeting, wooden boards, plastic and pieces of old carpet. A red carpet - which is, ironically, associated with VIPs - is on the floor.

Not even a baby can stand upright inside the structure, situated behind Bianca's new shack, yet a teenage boy has to sleep in it. She appeared angry when she showed News24 where he slept.

She shares the small yard with another family and both families have to relieve themselves in buckets and throw the excrement in a corner. The stench greets those who walk into the yard. "You get used to it when you live here," Bianca said.

De Bruyn was the DA councillor from 2016 until 2019 when he resigned from the party, leading to by-elections.

READ | Elections 2021: Will KwaZulu-Natal see more political killings in the coming months?

He explained that although communities "expected miracles" in terms of transformation, it was not possible given that the ANC still made up the majority of the council and budgets and allocations had to be made by the ANC mayor and ANC-appointed city manager.

Of the 50 wards in Mangaung, the ANC won 38. The DA won the other 12.

The ANC has 58 seats, the DA 27, the EFF 9, the AIC 2, the FF PLUS 2, the ANA 1 and Cope 1. 

Withholding resources "an old ANC tactic"

DA MP, provincial chairperson and this year's campaign manager in the Free State, Werner Horn, said Heidedal was not the only area affected by the "ANC's old tactic" of withholding resources to opposition-run wards.

"So, over the last five-year cycle we have definitely seen resources being withheld from specifically DA wards," he said.

Children play on a heap of dirt under an election
Children play on a heap of dirt under an election campaign poster in ward 3 of Mangaung. Residents here say they haven't received basic services since democracy.
News24 Kayleen Morgan

He added that "ordinarily, the explanation [from the ANC] is that the state of infrastructure in a DA ward is far better than in an ANC ward in any case, but then this causes a situation where even the basics of service delivery is not done in these DA wards".

A budget might have been allocated to DA-run wards which should, in theory, allow for maintenance and basic service delivery, he said.

But, he added that due to "dire financial management" in the metro, the ANC found it "easy to throttle finances that ought to go towards basic services in the opposition wards". He added that it was easy to throttle finances in DA wards because "the governing party [is] not necessarily in the firing line when the communities start asking questions".

Horn also explained that the withholding of resources was not done in a blanket manner; it "depended on the integrity of both the executive mayor and the municipal manager who is in charge of that administration".

Horn said:

It's an old trick of the ANC leading up to the elections go to communities and say the fact that there has been not much progress in this ward must be ascribed to your opposition councillor. Give the ward back to the ANC and then you will see how we perform.

When approached for comment, Mangaung municipality spokesperson Qondile Khedama said the inquiry was more political than administrative and asked that the questions be directed to chief whip Zolile Mangcotywa.

Mangcotywa asked to be called back in an hour but never answered his phone when News24 called back.

When Khedama eventually responded, he did not deny the allegations.

"Look, the issue of campaigns and what people are raising strengthens the City as it give us perspective and helps us understand what are the feelings of the people. Yes, we do have our own process of how budgets are allocated, the Integrated Development Plan, and at some point we were interrupted by Covid-19, but I want to say that we hear what is being raised and we will also infuse solutions into our strategic planning. 

READ | News24's Out of Order Index: Do coalitions work at local government

"A number of issues at local government are raised from time to time … but what we need to do is to not over promise our people when we know we cannot achieve certain things”. 

Two ANC Mangaung metro councillors told News24 that the withholding of resources from DA wards was a conscious decision by the party. 

"Where the DA governs in the Western Cape, in Midvaal, they also direct more services towards wards under them, so they can't be crying foul when it happens in an ANC-run metro. At the end of the day, finances are tight and decisions have to be made [on] where they are directed to. Most DA wards are more affluent and Heidedal suffers because it's one of the few DA wards that its predominantly a township," one councillor said.

Residents say they have been calling for the demol
Residents say they have been calling for the demolition of asbestos houses and hostels in the metropolitan.
News24 Kayleen Morgan

The other echoed those sentiment: "In all honestly, the ANC-run wards are in a more dire condition and need more love and care, hence the decision to direct more funds to them."

Financial mismanagement a factor

Horn, however, added that fiscal mismanagement was a contributing factor to the failure of the ANC-led administration in the metro. 

"The Mangaung metro has consistently failed to spend all of the grants it does receive from national government, which are earmarked for infrastructure projects. The building of proper streets, stormwater drainage, streetlighting. All projects that should ultimately uplift communities that were at the wrong end of projects and service delivery during apartheid are still not implemented because of the failed metro governments [that] do not properly manage their finances. 

"The administration has allowed the size of its personal structure to balloon outside of manageable and affordable levels and ultimately, that causes the municipality to siphon off from those grant monies to be able to make the operational budget and pay salaries."

"It's really a sad indictment against the current government in the metro," he said.

Asbestos houses are still prevalent in Mangaung de
Asbestos houses are still prevalent in Mangaung despite government promising to demolish and rebuild the houses known to cause illness.
News24 Kayleen Morgan

Just this week, National Treasury ordered that the currently established Mangaung Metro Police Service be dissolved and that disciplinary procedures be instituted against "everyone involved in this process of constituting the metro police service, including members of the mayoral committee".

READ | Why ailing Mangaung instructed not to think about new metro police dept

In a letter, Deputy Director General: Intergovernmental Relations, Malijeng Mgqaleni wrote that National Treasury reiterated that it had "been consistent in its advice to the City that the Metro Police Service should not be a priority, given its precarious financial and service delivery performance". Yet the metro established the unit without its approval.

The letter was written to, among others Acting Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality city manager Sello More, Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela, Finance MEC Gadija Brown, and newly appointed Cogta MEC Mxolisi Dukwana. News24 has seen the letter.

"The consistent cautions to the City over the years to manage its expenditure and prioritise basic service delivery of water, sanitation and waste management, was largely ignored and contributed largely to the City then being placed under administration for financial performance challenges," read Mgqaleni's letter. 

He also revealed that Deputy President David Mabuza, in his role as leader of government business in Parliament, instructed that "all activities associated with the Metro Police Service must be stopped with immediate effect".

READ | Tit for tat: Policing devolution battle escalates between Bheki Cele and the DA

"You are, as the acting accounting officer, directed to institute disciplinary procedures against everyone involved in this process, including members of the mayoral committee, in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003 (Act No. 56 of 2003). Secondly, no payments nor any additions to the organisational establishments must be allowed under any circumstances," the letter read.

He added that the letter served to again implore to More, as the accounting officer of the metro, to supply National Treasury with all memorandums and reports that served at council and formed the basis for the decision to establish the metro police.

"It is also critical that the said documents also include the decision-making process [and]  how the councillors of the metros voted on this item (all decisions). This record will assist the National Treasury to have a clear picture of who is directly responsible for this decision and who is liable for the expenditure incurred by the metro, in the event the Auditor-General finds this expenditure to have been a fruitless and wasteful, that the said recovery process can be effected.

Mabona Qinisile says he was chosen by the people t
Mabona Qinisile says he was chosen by the people to run as an independent candidate because he is trustworthy.
News24 Kayleen Morgan

According to Horn, the metro's other "big problem" is "the fact that national government departments don't pay their rates and taxes", drastically reducing their sources of revenue.  

The report of Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke has also been a strong indictment on the Free state as a whole and on Mangaung as a metro. 

According to the AG, there were no clean audits in the entire province and financial health concerns were raised in the Free State for many years.

The report confirmed that the metro had repeatedly recorded significant debt impairments due to a lack of the collection of outstanding accounts.

The plight of independent candidates 

De Bruyn also apportioned blame to the DA, saying that while he was a member and ward councillor, he found himself caught between "politicking and serving the community" on numerous occasions.

"Things such as voting against the budget at all costs, just to disrupt the ANC's leadership, were prioritised over the provision of services to communities who needed the resources the most.

"As their councillor, you knew that it would be on you if they did not receive the basic needs," he said.

He is now an independent candidate.

READ | Elections: Ramaphosa declares 1 November a public holiday

Besides De Bruyn, there is growing disillusionment among members of other parties, prompting them to stand as independent candidates in this year's municipal elections. 

Residents expressed that they trusted independent candidates more because they were embedded in the communities.

One such candidate is Christopher Tong, a 66-year-old contesting Ward 10 (JB Mafora) in Mangaung.

Community members have described him as "a man of the people" who "with the little he has, does not hesitate to assist others".

A resident, Kelebogile Mene, said that Ton received an old age grant of less than R2 000 but "he will still assist me and my child".

Another resident, Nonhle Maja, said Tong always encouraged young people to not despair but continue to apply for job opportunities, even if they don't get any responses or offers.

Tong said he was motivated to stand as an independent candidate because he stayed in the same communities and was familiar with the conditions under which people lived, "unlike the current councillor".

"We have no hospital, police station or shopping centres in this vicinity. We have to catch a taxi to access such facilities and this is unacceptable 27 years after democracy," he said.

Another independent candidate Kgosi Palagangwe, who is contesting Ward 44, said while there was growing concern that the governing party would withhold resources from wards that voted for anyone but the ANC, this anxiety was ill-informed by a "lack of understand of the legislation".

"Legislation empowers the opposition or independent candidate to develop what you call a ward-based plan and that ward-based plan must find resonance within the bigger plan of the municipality, which is called the integrated development plan. 

"So the ward-based plan must be funded.

Sixty-six year old Christopher Tong is a pensioner
Sixty-six year old Christopher Tong is a pensioner running as an independent candidate in ward 10. Community members have rallied behind him because he assists in any way he can with the pension money he receives.
News24 Kayleen Morgan

"It can't just be a plan that is not funded because the moment you get to council and you present it, then council decides that it cannot be funded, then you have to go back to your community and inform them that the municipality rejected it. Therefore, it would seem as if, as independents, we have failed. But it would not end there, we would take it to the courts because it would not be fair that a budget of the whole municipality gets spent only in Bloemfontein (the suburbs and not in townships) and these other areas are isolated. 

"Whether we are talking infrastructure, whether we are talking service delivery, [the ANC] can't exclude certain areas because that becomes a human rights issue and we would be forced to also approach the Human Rights Commission".

Tshiamo Malatji, 23, is another passionate independent candidate who has put up his hand for election.

READ | Their problems are your problems, Motlanthe tells ANC municipal election candidates

His enthusiasm and eagerness to serve his communities is evident in his involvement in local government politics at such a young age. He has also been involved in numerous community development projects that range from soup kitchen assistance to the provision of spaces for budding artists where they can advertise and sell their work. 

To fund his campaign, Malatji said, "I used this month's rent to make posters and have been forced to move back home with my mother".

He bemoaned the limited time he had, thanks to court challenges before a date was finally set for the elections.

Malatji, who will be contesting Ward 19, said his concerns were, among others, youth unemployment, homelessness and addressing the needs of people who can't afford basic services. 

De Bruyn, however, was sceptical of the independent candidates' chances.

He said the experiences of communities that gave the DA a chance were so terrible, that they and others who know about their experiences could end up voting for the ANC out of fear that they would be punished for voting for opposition parties or independent candidates. 

*Not her real name

Stay updated with News24's latest coverage, opinion and analysis of Elections 2021. Check out results from the previous municipal elections.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
President Ramaphosa has punted the idea of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for South Africans. This is:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
The right thing to do. We desperately need more South Africans vaccinated to prevent further mutations and restore normality in our lives.
72% - 7204 votes
A risky strategy. Compulsory vaccinations may have unintended consequences and damage our rollout campaign.
28% - 2817 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.