VBS scandal: Limpopo premier at pains to explain why no action has been taken against mayors, politicians

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha. (Sandile Ndlovu, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)
Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha. (Sandile Ndlovu, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha was at pains to explain the VBS saga on Wednesday as public pressure mounts on the government and ruling party to act against those implicated.

The provincial government is accused of being quick to act against municipality officials who illegally invested money in VBS, but of being slack in acting against politicians, such as mayors.

Ten municipalities invested about R1.2bn in the bank. Seven of them have since acted against officials found to have acted outside the bounds of the law.

Speaking to reporters in his Polokwane office on Wednesday, Mathabatha said: "As a province, we decided that remedial actions be taken against officials who may have acted outside the bounds and powers of the laws, including the Municipal Finance Management Act and the Public Finance Management Act."

However, he was at pains to explain why the mayors of some of the municipalities and politicians said to have given instructions to officials to invest funds with VBS, were still off the hook.

READ: VBS scandal: Mayor explains 'shady' R60m investment, blames former boss

Prominent among them is mayor of Vhembe District Municipality (VDM), Florence Radzilani, who is also provincial deputy chairperson of the ANC, Danny Msiza who is ANC provincial treasurer and former Capricorn District Municipality (CDM) mayor, Gilbert Kganyago.

"It's not a government matter per se. Perhaps with Radzilani it may be by virtue of her being the mayor of Vhembe District Municipality," Mathabatha said.

He said officials at the ANC's headquarters at Luthuli House had handed the matter over to its Integrity Commission and they were told that as a province, the party would issue instructions on how to proceed regarding Radzilani and Msiza.

"We are not protecting politicians. Their day will come."

He said the issue of Kganyago, who is now a member of the provincial legislature, would be incorporated in the category of politicians implicated in the VBS scandal.

Current mayor at Capricorn District Municipality John Mpe placed all the events and circumstances that led to funds being invested into VBS squarely at Kganyago's door on Tuesday.

READ: ANC NEC refers VBS matter to NWC, reiterates support for state capture inquiry

Mathabatha also revealed that some, if not all, of the 10 municipalities that invested in VBS were under financial stress and may need to be placed under administration. He pin-pointed the municipalities of Fetakgomo-Tubatse and Giyani as being in a dire situation.

"We will ensure that basic service provision continues unabated at local level. Recovery plans are being developed and implemented to ensure services are not compromised," Mathabatha said.

"I have also instructed the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Mr Jerry Ndou, to present in the next [executive committee meeting], municipalities that should be put under administration because of their inability to provide necessary services," he said.

The lingering VBS saga has since aroused the anger of trade unions which have threatened to make some municipalities ungovernable if no action is taken against mayors who were involved.

However, Mathabatha has appealed to unions to be calm.

"We appeal to the unions to be patient. The people we are suspending will be able to tell us whether they were instructed by politicians such as mayors. After that, you'll see action being taken."

Meanwhile, the DA says it is appalled by Mathabatha's "lack of leadership and unwillingness" to take action against politicians.

"With the failing ANC directly implicated in the VBS scandal, Premier Mathabatha has proved that he would rather protect corrupt cronies who looted the bank's coffers and stole from people oppressed by poverty, than take actions against all those implicated," Limpopo MPL Jacques Smalle said in a statement. 

Smalle pointed out that not a single mayor or politician was held to account.

He added that various municipalities across the province were on the verge of collapse and were unable to render the most basic services to residents due to the investments in VBS, which have not been recovered.

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