Angry community members in Limpopo’s Greater Tubatse Municipality on Wednesday filed for permission to march in protest against the municipality. They allege corruption among local officials and unaccounted spending of public money.
Members of the Tubatse Activist Forum (TAF) handed over a memorandum of grievances and demands to the municipality early last month, giving it seven working days to respond.
The municipality failed to meet this deadline and the TAF enquired last Thursday about the hold-up. But by on Wednesday it had still not received any response.
Waiting for municipality’s response
We are now applying for a follow-up march for Thursday March 11 so that we can get the municipality’s response,” Elias Mbuyane, chairperson of TAF, told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday morning.
As of last week Thursday, Mbuyane said, ‘the speaker of the municipality didn’t know anything about the memorandum, But the memorandum was collected and signed for by the chief whip, so that is surprising.”
The memorandum, which is in the M&G‘s possession, alleges corruption within the municipality and calls for a ‘comprehensive Forensic Audit Investigation” to look into ‘acts of corruption [including tender rigging, nepotism etc] and bribery by municipal officials as well as mismanagement of the Municipal financial affairs”.
The memorandum also details capital projects and asks how the 2009/10 budget was spent.
Community members claim the municipality indicated it was operating on overdraft. ‘How can they say the budget is exhausted when we don’t see a single project? We don’t know where the money went,” said Mbuyane.
The municipality opened a case of intimidation against the activists in an attempt to prevent last month’s protest. ‘They opened a case saying we intimidated the municipal manager to grant us permission to march. We took the matter to court and we were given an order to march on Thursday February 11,” said Mbuyane.
Complaint of intimidation
A community member who preferred not to be named told the M&G the municipality laid a complaint of intimidation with police after the march, claiming that it had been illegal.
‘What the municipal council is saying is: if you are a member of the ruling party, you cannot march against the ruling party. But we are saying, we are not the ruling party,” said the community member.
On the morning of the march, police camped outside one of the activists home, Mbuyane said. ‘They came to my house at 3.30 in the morning; they found my mother there and asked her where I was. She said I was not available.”
‘They then waited at the gate for two hours looking for me; they wanted to arrest me to prevent me from marching.”
Inspector Godfrey Mohale, spokesperson of the Burgersfort police station, said the police may have been looking for the suspect who intimidated the municipality manager. ‘But I don’t know if this [police camping outside Mbuyane’s home] is true. However, police are still investigating this [the charges of intimidation laid by the municipality manager].”
A delegation from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) is currently doing research in Tubatse, and it will address the community from March 23 as indicated in the NCOP’s parliamentary programme of 2010, under the banner of ‘Taking Parliament to the People”.