/ 21 April 2011

Senior officials deployed to tackle Ficksburg services

Two provincial government teams to address service delivery problems and investigate allegations against local municipal officials were introduced on Friday to Meqheleng residents in Ficksburg.

Free State provincial minister of cooperative governance Mamiki Qabathe said the provincial government had agreed on a programme on how several demands would be addressed, contained in a memorandum handed to the municipality.

The provincial minister spent most of Thursday in meetings with the Setsoto local municipal councillors, the municipality staff and the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens (MCC) group on the provincial government's feedback to service delivery demands.

This follows protests last week in the town during which a local protester Andries Tatane was killed when he was beaten and allegedly shot by police during an effort to demand feedback from the local municipality.

Qabathe said one team would immediately start helping the municipal administration with its service delivery problems.

On resident's demands that Setsoto municipal officials must be immediately suspended, Qabathe said a team would be deployed to investigate allegations against identified officials and politicians.

"If they [the investigating team] found anything against anybody they would be asked to go home, be suspended, for proper investigations to follow."

Qabathe said the government could not fire officials, without investigating the allegations first.

"There are laws in this country. Part of the laws is that you cannot take people willy-nilly out of offices."

Addressing Meqheleng residents soon afterwards, Qabathe was met with huge cheers from the community when she said officials would have to go if found to be in the wrong.

She said it was agreed with the community that the issues in the memorandum were genuine.

MCC spokesperson Seliso Mpekoa said in reaction that the citizens group was happy that the investigations would start immediately.

He agreed that there were legal processes that have to be followed as part of the matter.

Mpekoa said the community would not back down on their demands that some individuals at the municipality must be fired.

"We gave them seven days. Within seven days we want to see results of the investigation." He said it was made clear to the provincial government that after the investigations no delay on allegations would be accepted.

Mpekoa said an additional memorandum was handed to Free State premier Ace Magashule's offices this week indicating who within the municipality was suspected of wrongdoing by the community.

The demands of the community include amongst others "water meter installation must stop until we have water" and "nepotism on tender procurement must stop".

Other demands in the memorandum include that "those who wasted our money" must be dismissed as well as "those who stole R1,2-million" for a sports complex must go.

The residents also want the municipality to pay money owed to local businesses and that a moratorium be placed on all tenders within the area.

While addressing the community, Qabathe was met with comments from residents who wanted to know how long investigation into the residents' demand would take.

Many speakers were adamant that officials who did not do their work "must go" after the investigations. — Sapa