The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) notes and welcomes the arrests and convictions that have taken place in several municipalities within the province. As SAMWU, we have consistently asserted that fraud and corruption have reached alarming levels in municipalities, allowing individuals to plunder municipal finances without consequences. We are also pleased to observe that the justice system has already commenced its work to deliver justice to the victims of the VBS Mutual Bank scandal, who had their hard-earned money stolen while the Union’s leaders were silenced through a barrel of a gun.
On VBS convictions at Thulamela Local Municipality
The Union notes the conviction of former Thulamela Municipal Manager, Hlengani Emmanuel Maluleke, who received a five-year suspended sentence for his involvement in approving unlawful investments of municipal funds with the now-defunct VBS Mutual Bank. While we recognize this as a step towards justice for the predominantly black and economically disadvantaged victims who collectively lost millions of Rands, we, along with our federation COSATU, condemn the leniency of the sentence in light of the gravity of the crime.
Although it represents progress in holding individuals accountable for their actions, we believe that the sentence fails to adequately reflect the seriousness of the offense committed. More importantly, it does not act as a strong deterrent for other municipal officials who might contemplate similar violations. The Union’s position is that maximum applicable sentences should be imposed on those who are found guilty of violating the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA). The MFMA was enacted to ensure that municipal resources are used efficiently, allowing municipalities to provide quality services with the limited resources they have. The issuance of such lenient sentences does not encourage consistent compliance with the MFMA; in fact, it may encourage further violations.
The sentence, resulting from a plea agreement between Mr. Maluleke and the State at the Polokwane Specialized Crimes Court, is particularly painful for our Union as we have lost dedicated leaders, Comrades Timson Musetsho (TT) and Ronald Mani, who stood against the embezzlement of municipal resources through VBS Mutual Bank. Although the trial against those responsible for silencing our fallen heroes continues in the High Court, no arrests have been made regarding the R300 million that Comrades TT and Mani exposed at the Vhembe District Municipality, which ultimately led to their assassination.
On Sekhukhune arrests
The Union applauds the arrest of five employees at the Sekhukhune District Municipality for their involvement in the theft of R5.4 million from the municipal coffers. These arrests, carried out by the country’s elite crime-fighting unit, the Hawks, led to the apprehension of Andries Mokgotho, Bongani Masupye, Kedibone Magagane, Sivhadana Murovhi, and Charles Malema, all of whom have appeared at the Groblersdal Magistrate’s Court on six counts of fraud related to the disappearance of crucial municipal resources.
As a Union, we are particularly concerned about the arrest of Mr. Malema, who, at the time of his arrest, held the position of Chief Financial Officer at the Modimolle-Mookgophong Local Municipality. This arrest underscores how senior municipal officials are transferred from one municipality to another, exploiting their privileged positions to plunder municipal resources.
The Union anticipates a swift trial for those arrested and hopes that the maximum possible sanctions or sentences will be imposed on those found guilty. We firmly believe that applying the most severe applicable penalties will serve as a deterrent to further exploitation of municipal resources, a practice that has brought many provincial municipalities to their knees. We hope that municipalities will learn from the convictions resulting from these arrests, as the Union has previously emphasized the significant implications of recycling senior municipal officials on municipal governance.
On the Sekhukhune R1 million laptop scandal
The Union is relieved by the prevention of a transaction that could have cost the Sekhukhune District Municipality nearly R1 million for 24 laptops. We call upon the Hawks to investigate this matter thoroughly to uncover how supply chain regulations were circumvented to facilitate the order of these laptops at what appears to be highly inflated prices. This action undermines the commitment made by the Executive Mayor to eradicate fraud and corruption at the institution which are depleting municipal funds.
We are, however, encouraged that this evidently fraudulent transaction was intercepted, and the municipality will not proceed with the purchase. We also appreciate the dedication of the newly appointed Municipal Manager, Mr. Meshack Kgawle, in ensuring that the municipality does not proceed with this transaction as it clearly lacks value for money. Nonetheless, we urge the municipality to establish rigorous measures to detect and prevent such fraudulent activities. Importantly, the Sekhukhune District Municipality should reinforce its supply chain and procurement policies to align and comply with the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Issued by SAMWU Limpopo
(076 78 59022)
Deputy Provincial Secretary
(083 302 4571)