Editorial: Towards curbing the provincial rot

On Wednesday the rumours began to solidify: the Hawks had arrested Bobby Motaung, heir to the Kaizer Chiefs dynasty, and two of his associates in a firm called Lefika Emerging Equity.

They were to face charges of fraud following an investigation into allegations that a tax clearance certificate presented as part of a tender process for construction-related work on the 2010 World Cup stadium in Mbombela had been forged.

It has been a long time coming. The Mail & Guardian first reported on efforts by the Mpumalanga ANC to cover up evidence of serious irregularities involving Lefika's work on the stadium as early as February 2008.

The party's provincial executive called for Mbombela municipal speaker Jimmy Mohlala, who blew the whistle on Lefika's activities and its alleged links to local politicians, to be fired. He was murdered less than a year later.

Shortly after the killing, in January 2009, we revealed that the South African Revenue Service had in 2007 written to the municipality requesting documents relating to a R100-million payment to Lefika. Our reporter, Lucky Sindane, found his name on a "hit list" circulated in Mpumalanga in an apparent bid to intimidate those threatening its political and business elite.

Dodgy tax certificates
Five years after that original Sars letter, arrests have finally been made. There will probably be more. Investigations Mohlala commissioned before he was killed went a great deal further than dodgy tax certificates. They focused on the role of Lefika as consultants assisting the adjudication of the stadium contract, which went to a consortium of Basil Read and Bouygues Travaux Publics. Basil Read had a previous and undisclosed relationship with Lefika through its appointment to build a new R1-billion stadium for Kaizer Chiefs.

The Mbombela municipality allegedly paid Lefika millions too many for aspects of its work and an independent law firm report recommended that municipal manager Jacob Dladla be sacked for his part in the affair.

With Motaung in court, the Hawks may now begin to unravel the tangle of corruption and violence that has made Mpumalanga a byword for gangster politics. The only other investigation initiated since the demise of the Scorpions that so threatens powerful politicians is the Intaka case in which MECs from the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are accused of conniving in corruption around the sale of hospital equipment at inflated prices. National Prosecuting Authority staff in KwaZulu-Natal are already warning that the case is the subject of serious political meddling.

That cannot be allowed to happen here. The Hawks must be allowed to pursue every angle of a scandal that draws in the World Cup, the possible diversion of funds away from urgent delivery projects and the battle for control of the provincial – and national – ANC.

This is an opportunity to clear out an infection that is beginning to spread to KwaZulu-Natal and North West province. It cannot be missed.

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