Traditional authority calls for audit

The traditional authority of a North West community has called on North West Premier Thandi Modise to allow an external audit of the community trust worth R400-million following accusations that she has mismanaged the fund.

The Bapo Ba Mogale community owns land in the Brits and Odi magisterial districts, under which lie deposits of platinum, chrome and granite. The trust money stems from mining royalties.

The North West Traditional Leadership and Governance Act 2 of 2005 places the premier in control of this trust. The Bapo Ba Mogale community consists of between 35 000 and 40 000 people. It lacks water reticulation, roads and formal housing infrastructure.

The authority has accused the premier and the North West department of local government and traditional affairs of allowing unlawful and wasteful expenditure of trust money. Of particular concern to the community members is the conduct of a former chief executive working for the authority. They allege that, during 2010, Makepe Kenoshi approved expenditure without the necessary authorisation and with the full knowledge of the premier and the department.

“A forensic audit is absolutely essential and in spite of a statutory obligation to do so, the premier has not had the accounts of the community audited since 2009,” the authority’s attorney, Hugh Eiser, told the Mail & Guardian this week. Modise was appointed premier in 2010.

He said in one instance Kenoshi tried to commit the community to a property development investment of R486-million. However, the authority managed to stop the transaction on the grounds that Kenoshi was not authorised to sign the agreement on its behalf.

“But for the intervention of the authority, this transaction would have been allowed to go ahead by the North West government,” Eiser said. “It would have destroyed the community financially.”

The authority then brought an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to interdict Kenoshi from acting as its chief executive. The premier was cited as second respondent. An interim interdict was granted on June 2 2010. Kenoshi’s opposition to this ruling, based on the argument that the authority was not legitimate, was dismissed by the court. He did not contest the allegations of fraud and misconduct. The court also ordered Kenoshi to give the sheriff all documents, records, electronic media and computers relating to his work for the authority. The sheriff was ordered to hand over these items to the authority’s attorneys.

But the sheriff defied the court order and delivered the items to the department. Since then, the authority has not been able to access its records, electronic or otherwise, and an audit of the trust was thus further hindered. “This action of all the parties concerned has precluded the authority from ascertaining the full extent of the misconduct of Kenoshi with the support of the premier, the North West government and MEC [for local government Paul Sebego], and thus the damage done to the community,” Eiser said.

Matters have been exacerbated by a contest over the authority’s legitimacy. It was elected in 2009 in line with the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act under the auspices of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Its term of office expires in May this year. However, new elections have not been held, despite such elections having taken place on September 28 last year in most other traditional communities in North West, again under the guidance of the IEC.

Eiser said that neither the premier nor the North West department of local government and traditional affairs had instructed the IEC to host elections in the Bapo Ba Mogale community. Since the 2009 election, the community’s representatives have fought and won a number of cases establishing its legitimacy as the community’s traditional authority.

The North West department of local government and traditional affairs could not be reached for comment.

The acting spokesperson for the premier, Lesiba Kgwele, said all trust accounts in the province were managed by the provincial treasury and not the premier and strict treasury procedures minimised trust fund mismanagement.

Kgwele added that traditional council elections had been postponed because of a pending court judgment on the status of the traditional authority.

Heidi Swart is the Eugene Saldanha Fellow in social justice reporting, sponsored by the Charities Aid Foundation, Southern Africa

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