Steven Motale
2 minute read
5 Jun 2014
9:00 am

Corrupt council root of evil

Steven Motale

Driving through the CBD of my hometown, Kroonstad, part of Moqhaka municipality, can be a torturing experience.

Sunday Independent Editor, Steve Motale

Almost every street has trench-sized potholes that make driving through this once beautiful small Free State town a living hell. The surrounding townships, including Seeisoville, Constantia Park and Phomolong, are no better. In many areas sewerage is overflowing into the streets.

Not only is the infrastructure in this area crumbling, the local municipality’s service delivery track record is appalling. Residents have on numerous occasions taken to the streets to protest against the lack of basic water and sanitation. So dire is the situation something unheard of happened: earlier this year the Democratic Alliance embarked on a march to protest against alleged gross mismanagement and corruption in the ANC-led council.

In a dramatic turn of events, the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), with the support of the ANC and its alliance partners – including the SACP and Cosatu – marched on the municipality endorsing the DA’s call for the suspension of the municipal manager.

It’s very uncommon in this country to get these two mortal enemies – the ANC and the DA – agreeing on any matter. Thanks to the collapsing Moqhaka municipality these two arch-foes, in a rare act of solidarity, for once sang from the same hymn sheet in the interest of service-starved residents of Maokeng and its surrounding areas.

Such is the crisis in this municipality that 33 council workers were dismissed when they attempted to physically remove the municipal manager from his office a few weeks ago. This is the same municipality that saw nothing wrong with donating ratepayers’ hard-earned money to several political parties to contest the 2009 general elections.

Last week the Free State High Court ordered the municipality to get back almost R500 000 it paid to political parties. Apparently the ANC pocketed R380 000, the DA R70 000 – and the rest went to small parties.

We should not be fooled by claims that the money was distributed among all parties contesting elections. A bankrupt municipality like Moqhaka – that is hopelessly failing in executing its constitutional mandate of rendering services to its residents – has no business at all handing out money, more so to political parties.

One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the motive for this blatant corruption and abuse of public resources was. The smaller parties were given money to buy their silence. The only motive why a huge chunk of this money was channeled towards the ruling party’s coffers was an evil bid by a bunch of desperate and incompetent managers to keep their positions.

The message they were sending to the ANC was: “We bankrolled your election campaign. Return the favour by helping us retain our lucrative council posts.”

This is the sole reason why the council’s top management is still clinging to their posts, despite overwhelming evidence that the municipality is in a total state of collapse.

It is precisely this spectacular failure in proper financial administration and widespread corruption that is the root cause of the of service delivery failure in many municipalities countrywide.