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Q&A: ‘There’s total chaos at municipalities and no accountability’

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Investors are usually attracted to municipalities with good and efficient services including the provision of water, sanitation, electricity and well-maintained roads. When Free State residents go to the polls for the local government elections on November 1, they will be looking closely at how their municipalities have served them over the years and what they would like to see happening in the coming five years. Central University of Technology (CUT) senior economics lecturer Mgcinazwe Zwane says local government is responsible for creating an enabling environment for business, among others. He says the ANC, which has controlled most Free State municipalities since the dawn of democracy, has failed to deliver good services in recent years, thereby discouraging potential investors who could have helped create jobs and brought different services closer to the people. Excerpts:

How important are local government elections to the business community?

If local government is not run properly, the impact is felt at national level in terms of investment and job creation. You must remember that local government is the face of national government. What is currently happening is total chaos. There are no investments coming and no job creation in communities. Local government has collapsed. Infrastructure is hardly maintained and no one is being held accountable. 

What should communities, including ordinary residents and businesses, consider when going to the polls in the next few weeks?

It’s important for them to get the services they pay for and they should be led by leaders who are willing to be held accountable for their actions. I will give you an example of what happened in the North West province. One of the biggest employers there, Clover Dairy, pulled out of one of the municipalities due to poor service delivery in terms of road maintenance, electricity, water, etc. Now, if you come to our province, we have a similar problem. Look at the people of QwaQwa. It’s a former homeland that never had problems with electricity and many other services were available there. Education was one of the top investments in the QwaQwa community and the surrounding areas. But now the place has become a mess because of municipality politics. People there have organised total shutdowns to protest their displeasure at the poor services there. We have also had a shutdown here in Bloemfontein over service delivery and it affected businesses the most as they were trying to recover from the long COVID-19 lockdown.

Who should be running local government? Should it be political parties or independent councillors? What’s the best arrangement?

Local government needs to be properly run. I am a proponent for a kind of multi-party government where leaders can be held accountable. If we have a party that does as it pleases, it doesn’t always work. That’s why we find ourselves in the situation we are in now. The political manifestos they implement affect everybody, whether you are a member of that party or not. So, yes, local government can affect business in a negative way.   

How would you describe the past five years in terms of service delivery in Mangaung, for instance?

For the past five years, Mangaung . . . or since it got the status of metro, it has moved beyond worse. I don’t know what’s worse than worse. There is no service delivery. There is no business. You can see our roads . . . some potholes are like sinkholes. It also became the first metro to be put under administration.

The campaign season is at its peak right now. What should residents and businesses demand from the politicians before they make their final choices on election day?

I for one would want accountability. People should be led by a party or parties that can be accountable to the residents of that particular area. That will be the starting point because when you have that, people can be held accountable and can be prosecuted for misusing public funds. Now we are in a state where everybody does as they please. We need accountability. Leaders should be brave enough to say, if we derail . . . prosecute us, take us to court so that we can have our day in court and be jailed if we did wrong. But today, we see some of these people going scot-free. Nothing happens to them.

How much could this be impacting on the residents, particularly the youth?

The youth born around 2000 don’t really know about the struggle of Nelson Mandela and others. They were born during democracy and, for them, democracy never worked. They don’t understand it because they feel there is no democracy here. They ask their parents what’s good about this democracy because they are not enjoying it. There are no job opportunities, no youth development, etc. So, people should start being accountable. They should sign a contract saying I took the oath to serve this community and not my interests, because people come up with a lot of stories, but once in office, they change the tone. We need accountability and responsible people. We don’t need populists. We are tired of rhetoric poems . . . it’s part of the history. We are now living in a period where we want to see the implementation of the policies that were adopted. The leaders should deliver.

We have heard some municipal leaders saying they struggle to deliver services in some areas because residents are not paying rates and taxes. How important is that?

You cannot expect residents to pay rates and taxes if they are not getting their money’s worth. That’s why people are not paying. It’s not only that people are not working. There are those people who are willing to pay but they are discouraged by the level and quality of services they receive. If a municipality cannot render a service, people will stop paying. It’s easier to encourage people to be more responsible and pay for services if municipalities are delivering.

How well has the ANC done in terms of attracting investors to the Free State over the years, given that it controls most of the municipalities in the province?

They have failed dismally . . . due to their infighting and corruption that is associated with different individuals within the party. As an investor . . . why would I take the risk of investing in a province that I know I won’t get my money’s worth? Indeed, there are investors who are willing to invest but would prefer to invest in a multi-party council where they know there is accountability. There are potential investors who can bring growth to municipalities but what is scaring them away is the lack of accountability. Very few people have been held accountable. In fact, some of those accused have even been promoted. It’s as if they are being rewarded for being corrupt. There are investors willing to invest in areas like electricity, manufacturing and others but the ANC has failed dismally because of some people in that organisation.

So, what’s the problem with the ANC? Why is it not cleaning up its house?

The party needs to promote accountability . . . we all understand what the ANC did for this country as a liberation movement. But historically, no liberation movement has ever governed successfully anywhere in the world. In our case, after 27 years, we still have the same people occupying decision-making positions. They are getting qualified audit results – what’s that? That means we are employing people who are not qualified. They don’t know how to balance their books. We need multi-party councils so that the councillors can monitor each other.

The Free State is faced with a very high unemployment rate and the youths are the most affected – some are so disgruntled that they are saying they won’t be voting in the elections because they don’t see how it would improve their lives. What’s your word to them?

Look, voting is an individual choice. But generally, the youth have felt the pain. You cannot blame them for feeling that way. The negativity about elections that emanates from the youth’s point of view is based on the failures of the governing party. You cannot be talking about the same thing for five years and nothing happens. Government should invest in the youth. I support the youth in this case. If they abstain from voting, it’s their democratic right to do so. But they must also remember that whatever the outcome of the vote, it’s going to affect them, either positively or negatively. It’s their choice because they feel the pain. They feel the frustration.

How do you see the different parties doing in the elections?

In the small towns or municipalities, the ANC will win with a slight margin. But in the metros, I don’t the ANC winning with a large majority. The DA was doing well in this campaign and giving the ANC some competition until the issue of those posters came up in Durban. It has tainted their chance of winning with a slight majority. It has damaged their image because they are now viewed as a racist party. Some of their votes could go to Freedom Front Plus. Those that are disgruntled will have to decide whether they will vote for the ANC or the EFF. I see the EFF causing a storm. Remember Julius Malema is speaking the language of the youth. So, the youth might decide to vote for his party because they will say, ‘let’s give him a chance. He was in the ANC, he knows how they operate and if we give him a chance, he won’t do like they did.’ The ANC might have to form coalitions in the metros because I don’t see them doing well. They have messed up in the metros over the past five years. They may do well in the small municipalities because that’s where they are dominant. I don’t think the EFF will agree to govern with the ANC or the DA. They will have to go with the independents and smaller parties.

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Two Free State women allegedly killed by ‘druggie’ sons

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SHOCKING MURDER . . . A 65-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed with a sharp object by her 28-year-old son after she failed to give him money to buy drugs

Two women from Mangaung have allegedly been attacked and killed in two separate incidents by their own sons believed to be using drugs.

In the latest incident which happened in Kagisanong along Masike Street at the weekend, a 65-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed with a sharp object by her 28-year-old son after she failed to give him money to buy drugs.

Police spokesperson for Mangaung Metro Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said in the woman died on the scene from the stab wounds.

“The victim had visible multiple stab wounds on the head and body,” he said, adding the matter was reported by the brother to the deceased, who was also attacked by the suspect who is now in police custody.

Covane said the complainant informed the police that the suspect is believed to be using drugs and had asked his now deceased mother for money to buy drugs but she told him that she didn’t have money.

“The suspect got angry, went out of the house, came back with a piece of iron and stabbed the deceased with it several times,” he explained.

“When he was done, he turned to the complainant and also stabbed him on the chest.”

Covane said the uncle survived the attack but the daring suspect locked them inside the house and had to wait until Friday morning to get help.

The suspect was later traced and arrested by the police.
He is expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court this Monday facing charges of murder and attempted murder.

In a similar case, a 42-year-old man will be applying for bail at the Botshabelo Magistrates Court on the same day after allegedly strangling to death his 71-year-old mother last Sunday, August 7, 2022 in the E-Section, Botshabelo.

The suspect is also said to history of substance abuse.

Free State acting provincial police commissioner, Major General Modise, condemned the killing of the two elderly women. – Staff Reporter

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Magashule loses ConCourt bid to reverse ANC suspension

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APPLICATION DISMISSED . . . The Constitutional Court says Ace Magashule has no prospects of successfully appealing his suspension as ANC secretary-general

Former Free State premier Ace Magashule has lost his latest court bid to have his suspension as ANC secretary-general lifted.

He had approached the Constitutional Court seeking to have his temporary ousting from Luthuli House reversed.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, the apex court said Magashule had no prospects of successfully appealing his suspension.

“The Constitutional Court has considered the application for condonation and the application for leave to appeal. It has concluded that, although there are no reasonable prospects of success on the merits of the application for leave to appeal, the delay in bringing the application for leave to appeal is minimal,” the court said.

Magashule first approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to challenge his suspension, but the matter was dismissed with costs.

He subsequently approached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which dismissed the application in January 2022, prompting him to take up his case with the Constitutional Court.

Magashule was suspended from the ANC in May 2021 because of the party’s step-aside rule.

The rule requires ANC members facing criminal charges to step aside while their court cases are under way.

Magashule is facing corruption charges linked to the Free State asbestos corruption scandal. – Staff Reporter

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Municipal manager facing tender fraud charges granted bail

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THE ACCUSED . . . Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha is out on bail

Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha, 49, was on Friday released on a bail of R500 000 by the Phuthaditjhaba Magistrates Court after he was arrested by The Hawks for fraud, corruption and Contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

The state alleges that he allegedly awarded a contract of R58 million to Kill Crime Security Company in 2020 without following proper procurement processes.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said Mothamaha allegedly signed a service level agreement on May 19, 2020, appointing the company to render security services to the municipality for a period of three months without following procurement processes.

“The municipality continued to pay Kill Crime Security Company for almost two years without a contract,” said Shuping.

He said Mothamaha was supposed to appear with his co-accused, father and daughter who are the owners of Kill Crime Security, Thabiso, 55, and Dimakatso Sekhosana, 29, on Monday after they were instructed by The Hawks to hand themselves over on Sunday, but he failed to do so.

The Sekhosanas appeared on Monday facing similar charges and were released on bail of R150 000 each.

Part of Mothamaha’s bail conditions are that he must not enter the offices of the municipality, not interfere with the investigations nor intimidate witnesses.

The case was postponed to September 30 for further investigations. – Staff Reporter

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