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Mangaung ordered to disband metro police

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Staff Reporter

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has been ordered to dissolve its metro police service and to institute disciplinary procedures against officials who played a role in establishing the law-enforcement agency.

In a strongly worded letter, national treasury deputy director-general for intergovernmental relations Malijeng Ngqaleni ordered that any official involved in the process of setting up the metro police service, including members of the mayoral committee, should be subjected to a disciplinary process.

The letter, dated October 14, 2021, was sent to Mangaung acting city manager Sello More and copied to Free State Premier Sefora Ntombela, Treasury MEC Gadija Brown, Cooperative Governance MEC Mxolisi Dukwana as well as the provincial office of the Auditor General.

It ordered an immediate stop to all work relating to the establishment of the metro police.

More was also ordered to furnish national treasury with all documentation indicating the procedures followed.

“The national treasury has 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,” said Ngqaleni in the letter.

“This advice was shared with the city as early as when the metro announced the creation of chief of police position, and the subsequent appointment thereof and then, when this explicit disapproval was ignored, it was followed with same advice in every formal annual budget benchmark assessment and the mid-year budget and performance assessments since the 2017 financial year.”

Ngqaleni said national treasury cautioned the city over the years to manage its expenditure and prioritise basic service delivery of water, sanitation and waste management but the advice was largely ignored.

She said the municipality’s attitude largely contributed to the city then being placed under administration for financial performance challenges.

“The advice was always clear from the national treasury, and I want to re-iterate it here again to you as the newly appointed acting city manager that the establishment of the Mangaung Metro Police Service will exacerbate the current financial challenges and will undermine the purpose of the approved mandatory financial recovery plan.

“The city is failing to control its operating expenditure, poor revenue collection and failure in corporate governance,” she said.

Ngqaleni said even though the city is currently under administration, it has not demonstrated any improvement in the management of its operating budget, hence the need for the municipality to dedicate more time and effort towards the implementation of the financial recovery plan before committing to new projects that will burden the city financially.

“The message is simple: national treasury does not support the establishment of the metro police service at this stage and believes it to be not in support of the implementation of the Mandatory Financial Recovery Plan,” she said, adding the city needs a comprehensive, rigorous and fully costed organisational design that has been reviewed to be a best fit for a metro of its size and with its financial challenges.

Ngqaleni expressed disappointment that over the past two years of intervention, the national treasury team made a number of attempts to reach out to the city to ensure the creation of such a reviewed organisational design but was met with “what can only be explained as deliberate delays by officials”.

She pointed out that even Deputy President David Mabuza in his capacity as head of government business also instructed that all activities associated with the metro police service be stopped with immediate effect.

“. . . 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.

“This letter serves to again (implore) you as the accounting officer of the metro to supply national treasury with all memorandums and reports . . . served at council which were the basis for the decision to establish the metro police.

“It is also critical that the said documents include the decision-making process on how the councillors of the metro voted on this item,” stated the letter.

This record, said Ngqaleni, will assist national treasury to have a clear picture of who is directly responsible for the decision to set up the metro police and who is liable for the expenditure incurred by the municipality.

She said in the event the Auditor General finds this expenditure fruitless and wasteful, the necessary recovery process should be effected.

“You are hereby advised to take the necessary steps to advise council to rescind this ill-advised decision as soon as practically possible and to timeously advise national treasury of the position of the metro within the next 14 days,” she ordered.

The directive, according to Ngqaleni, is not negotiable.

Civic organisation Mangaung Concerned Community (MCC) has welcomed national treasury’s decision to order the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality to abort the establishment of the metro police.

MCC spokesperson Temba Zweni told The Free Stater by telephone that they were relieved the government had finally taken steps to stop the controversial establishment of the metro police.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Zweni. “We were beginning to lose hope . . . but at least, reading that letter, it shows that government is serious about accountability.”

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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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