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EFF targets eastern Free State

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The Free Stater caught up with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Free State chairperson Mandisa Makhesini on the phone while on a campaign mission in Thabo Mofutsanyana district. The province has 23 municipalities, six of which are in that district. These include Maluti-a-Phofung, Dihlabeng, Setsoto, Nketoana, Mantsopa and Phumelela local municipalities. Makesini expressed confidence that her party would make significant gains in municipalities across the province but however expressed concern that many people were not interested in voting because they have not seen change over the years. She however believes they have been able to convince more young people to vote and that should work in their favour. Excerpts:

The EFF has given quite some significant attention to the eastern Free State for the forthcoming elections. What have you found so important about that area and how crucial is it to you?

The majority of the voters in this province are coming from the eastern Free State. Poverty and unemployment are very rife in the same area. There is no service delivery at all, in all the municipalities here. The residents of the eastern Free State want change. So we believe that if we get it right, we could play a significant role in being the deciding factor at the end of these elections.

You mentioned poverty, unemployment and lack of services there – what do you hope to do in order to bring change should you take control of some of the municipalities?

The eastern Free State was established by the late Ntate Charles Mopeli. He knew what was needed to make the area viable. The majority of factories in the province are found in the eastern Free State. The EFF will ensure that it engages with the relevant sectors and encourage businesspeople to set up operations, particularly in Harrismith and QwaQwa. Also, the people of this area have three dams but they don’t have water. Most of the infrastructure here is very old and has not been repaired or replaced in a long time. All these issues are contained in our manifesto. So, if we want things to happen in this province, we need to start here. We have a plan for the people. They must benefit from the dams in this area and have clean running water. Most of the time, people in Maluti-a-Phofung don’t have electricity. We need to stabilise that and the issue of old infrastructure.

South Africa has experienced a major drop in the number of people turning out to vote and the question is: have you convinced people to vote and are they eager to turn up on election day?

They are very reluctant, to be honest with you. They have lost hope. But our responsibility as a political party is to convince them to come out and vote. We are telling them communities should not be punished for things that were done by the ruling party. We are asking them to give us the opportunity . . . the truth of the matter is life goes on after the elections. They will still need water, electricity and other services after this. They are reluctant but we are trying very hard to engage them. They are turning up for community meetings but that vibe from the past is not there. They have been slow . . . but that won’t deter us. Most political parties are in QwaQwa because, if you want to get things right in the province, you should first stabilise Thabo Mofutsanyana district.

The EFF has been accused in the past of taking advantage of people’s plight, like in this case, the issue of water, electricity and unemployment, and then make promises which may not be practical, more like you are playing on people’s emotions. How do you respond to that?

The things we are saying today are same things we have been saying since the formation of the EFF in 2013. We have never digressed. If you can check our manifesto, we have stuck to what we were saying at the beginning. We have always said the situation here in QwaQwa should change. Remember it’s us the EFF who pushed the motion of no confidence in the former mayor of Maluti-a-Phofung, Vusi Tshabalala, and he is now out of that municipality. There was no service delivery. It’s also us who were always assisting people working in the factories here if they were unfairly dismissed. We have always been with the people here. So, it’s not true that we are taking advantage of the people’s plight. Look, there are dams in Thabo Mofutsanyana but the people have no water. We have to make things work. This water must benefit the people of Thabo Mofutsanyana. There must be services.

It’s difficult to talk about the EFF without referring to what’s happening in the ruling ANC party. Right now, the ANC is faced with internal fights with some of its senior members accused of serious cases of corruption. You may also be accused of the same by those you want to vote for you. How will you convince them otherwise?

The only thing I will say to the people is: ‘tell me which EFF leader is before a court of law for corruption or any other criminal charges?’ All the allegations levelled against our leaders in the past have not been brought before any court of law. It’s just rumours. The fact that we are all coming from the ANC does not mean we are corrupt. We have never led a municipality. And should any leader of the EFF be accused of any wrongdoing, including misuse of public funds, they should be brought before a court of law just like anyone one else.

The EFF seems to be quite popular with young people in institutions of higher learning and we have seen the EFF Student Command winning elections there of late. Are we likely to see this popularity translating into votes in the municipal elections as well?

I think this time it’s going to be different. It should translate into more votes for us because we have been telling our members, particularly the youth, that if you are not registered to vote, we disqualify you as a member of the EFF. You cannot participate in our meetings as well as other party activities. So, we believe that approach will work in our favour because every member who is actively on the structures has registered to vote. We noticed that over the years the majority of our people who filled up the stadiums were not registered to vote but, today, the situation is different. We were able to identify one of the main weaknesses of the organisation and all those students in institutions of higher learning are registered to vote.

Where do you hope to get your votes from? Do you see yourselves stealing votes from the ANC or you will benefit more from the new voters?

We are hoping to build upon the historical vote of the EFF, which is mostly young people. We are not hoping to benefit much from the divisions in the ANC. Our focus is on the young people that believe on the mission and the vision of the EFF. Most of those people are in institutions of higher learning and we are doing very well there. We have had the SRC at the University of the Free State and last year we also won here at the QwaQwa campus, something that has never happened before. We also welcome older people. They have sent their children for higher education and we believe they will be willing to listen to them when they tell them about the EFF.

Should you fail to win convincingly, will you be prepared to go into a coalition with the ANC and the DA, for example?

We will go into a coalition with anyone who believes in the principle of prioritising the interests of the majority, which is the black people. But anyone who does not prioritise the interests of the blacks who have been marginalised for a long time cannot work with us.

The Free State has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and earlier you said that it’s one of your areas of interest. What exactly will you do to address this problem should you take control of any municipality in the province?

One of the key things we will do is to link the database of social services with every municipality that we control as well as the department of education. This will help us follow up on those who have completed school and have qualifications so that they can be hired for the right jobs. We have to stop this thing of unqualified people just being channelled to municipalities for cadre deployment. The right people must be hired. It’s not about wearing an EFF beret and being the most vocal. You can’t have someone who did history at school heading technical services in a municipality. We need to clean that out and also call investors to come and set up their businesses here. Not everyone can work in municipalities. We want our people to benefit.  We also want our people to get land so that that they can look after their families.

EFF leader Julius Malema has said the party would want databases of the elderly in the municipalities they will be controlling so that they won’t pay for basic services, but some people have argued that not every elderly person needs free services because some have the means or adequate support structures and it will be costly to the government. How do you respond to this?

We are saying people receiving social grants must not pay for services. We are not saying an elderly person who is a former president of this country, staying in QwaQwa, getting their pension and can afford to pay their bills should still get free services. We have some rich people in communities like Clarens who held good jobs. Such people have to pay for services because municipalities depend on rates and taxes.

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung speaker vows not to be silenced by charges

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DEFIANT . . . Mangaung council speaker Stefani Lockman-Naidoo

Mangaung council speaker Stefani Lockman-Naidoo has vowed not to stop fighting corruption in the metro after she was summoned to a disciplinary hearing set for next month for disobeying her party, the ANC, resulting in the axing and suspension of senior officials in the municipality.

The ANC Mangaung Interim Regional Committee (IRC) has summoned her to a disciplinary hearing on June 7 to answer to charges of knowingly and intentionally defying a resolution of the ANC Caucus in council after she allowed a motion to be debated without referring it to party structures in the council.

Lockman-Naidoo’s tiff with her party dates back to January when the Mangaung IRC announced her suspension after she was accused of defying the ANC’s instruction no to proceed with a sitting which resulted in then acting city manager Sello More being removed from office.

The Mangaung speaker also told The Free Stater on Thursday that she was being targeted for presiding over a recent council sitting that resolved to suspend several allegedly corrupt officials in the municipality.

“We are being charged for suspending a corrupt HOD (head of department),” said Lockman-Naidoo, referring to David Nkaiseng who heads corporate services.

A council meeting held on May 12 – after receiving an investigation report from Matlho Attorneys – resolved, among others, to bring charges against Nkaiseng for his alleged role in unlawfully appointing the officials resulting in the flouting of municipal policy of appointment of officials as well as flouting municipal staff regulations and the code of conduct for municipal officials.

“We are being targeted because we are purging these corrupt officials of Mangaung,” charged Lockman-Naidoo.

“I will not tolerate any corruption . . . Wherever I go I will be known as that speaker that didn’t tolerate corruption,” she added confidently.

The speaker was however quick to point out that those charging her had no authority to do so.

“But you see, the charges are not from the ANC because they didn’t ask for permission from the provincial coordinator (Paseka Nompondo) to charge us,” she said.

“The region itself is an illegitimate structure. Its term has expired and these are just factions . . .

“It’s a faction of the region that is charging us – it’s not the ANC.

“They are the ones that are purging us because we are not part of their faction.

“This is what’s going on. They don’t tolerate me.”

Lockman-Naidoo claimed the faction was not happy with the suspension of the HOD.

“The council resolution . . . says several criminal charges must be opened against the HOD himself and relevant officials,” she said.

“And I’m wrong for suspending a person like that?

“I don’t mind being charged at all because we did the right thing as council.

“They are saying . . . they are charging us because I allowed the item to sit in council.

“It’s not my item – it’s a council item. I couldn’t remove it. There was nothing I could do.”

Council also resolved that Nzimeni Maswabi be charged by acting city manager for his role in approving unlawful staff appointments.

It also wants Thabang Joseph Mpeli to be charged for his role in the drafting of unlawful appointment letters.

However, ANC Mangaung IRC spokesperson Ncamisa Ngxangisa has dismissed Lockman-Naidoo’s claims saying the party was not targeting anyone but it simply wanted to put its house in order.

In a separate interview, Ngxangisa said there were concerns some councillors could be working with the opposition, hence the probe.

“We are not targeting individuals. We are dealing with members of the ANC who happen to be councillors in this regard,” he told The Free Stater.

“This is after we received concerns that there could be some members who are voting with the opposition, against the position of the caucus of the ANC in that municipality.

“We took everything as it is, and referred the matter to our sub-committee that deals with issues of discipline so that they inquire into all these allegations levelled against all these comrades.

“But at the same time, it gives these comrades an opportunity to respond or query any evidence that may be presented against them.”

Ngxangisa said every organisation implements disciplinary processes when something goes wrong and the ANC was only exercising its right to do so.

“We are a political party, we contest elections,” he said.

“We are relying on our councillors to make sure that our policy position and decisions find expression in that council.

“If there are allegations that such is not happening, any self-loving political party will stand up and do something about it.

“These accusations are neither here nor there – no one is targeted.

“There are concerns that the centre is not holding in that municipality.

“Our caucus through the chief whip is not given enough support by our councillors and there are such allegations.

“That’s a cause for serious concern which must be attended to so that the ANC can at least enjoy its majority in that municipality.”

The Mangaung IRC spokesperson emphasised that the ANC was firmly against any corrupt activities but indicated that councillors were expected to represent the interests of the party and not their own.

“When we say all councillors must toe this line, we expect everyone to toe that line. Anyone who goes astray is a concern to us,” he said.  – Staff Reporter

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Centlec warns cable theft masterminds

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STOLEN . . . Part of the copper cable recovered by the police

Power distribution company Centlec has issued a stern warning to people believed to be hired by unknown individuals or syndicates to steal copper cables from the power lines saying it will not allow them to destroy such key infrastructure and put the country’s economy at risk.

“This is war and we will fight it tooth and nail,” said Centlec in a statement.

“We want to send a strong message to the criminals and their handlers that we will not rest until they are behind bars,” added the company, which distributes electricity to Mangaung and surrounding municipalities.

It said it is aware that most of the criminals are just fronts who are sent by kingpins who then process the copper before selling it.

Centlec warned the kingpins that they would soon face the full might of the law.

“Some of the fronts happen to be vulnerable foreign nationals who are being used to steal our cables by their handlers,” said the company.

A joint operation by Centlec and the police in recent weeks has led to several arrests and the recovery of hundreds of kilogrammes of copper cable destined for scrapyards.

In the latest three incidents, a man was arrested in Botshabelo after being found in possession of copper cable believed to have been stolen.

Several people were also arrested following inspections at two scrapyards in Botshabelo where large amounts of copper were found.

At a scrapyard in Bloemfontein, a man was issued with a fine after he was found with copper weighing 150kg which he failed to account for.

Investigations are still underway to ascertain the real owner of the scrapyard for possible arrest.

“We are worried that many of these scrapyards are becoming a haven for criminals and promoting criminality,” said Centlec chief executive officer Malefane Sekoboto. – Staff Reporter

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