North West premier won't hand D-account over to protector

North West Premier Thandi Modise. (Gallo)

North West Premier Thandi Modise. (Gallo)

North West Premier Thandi Modise said her government will not hand over the D-account – a bank account in which mining companies pay royalties to the communities on whose ancestral land they mine – to the public protector. 

A D-Account is a community trust account, with the letter "D" representing "development" because the money put into this account is supposed to be used to develop communities. 

At a meeting on Thursday where Modise was called by the Standing Committee on Provincial Public Accounts (Scopa) to account for missing monies, Modise said she disagreed with the committee that her administration should hand over control of the D-account to public protector Thuli Madonsela's office. 

Modise's government prefers to rather spend "over R60-million" on the investigations, according to Scopa, which says the figure was presented to the committee by the provincial department of finance. 

"We are responsible for the account and therefore we are empowered to look over and investigate the D-account," Modise told Scopa at a meeting in Brits on Thursday. 

Account fully 
Modise instead promised to bring the MEC for local government and traditional affairs, and the MEC for finance as well as all officials involved in the management of the D-Account to account fully for the missing money to Scopa. 

Modise told Scopa that she will call on all the officials implicated in the matter to appear before the committee to have a frank and honest discussion on the matter.

This, she said, she was doing to get all sides of the story to avoid half-truths.

"I don't want to be lied to and that's why we want to bring everybody on board to get to the bottom of the situation and prevent creating unpleasant situations for all of us," she told Scopa. "To level allegations against people who are not here without any substantive evidence will not help us". 

The public accounts committee is up in arms after complaints by mining communities, particularly Bapo Ba Mogale and Bakwena Ba Mogopa – who occupy land in the Madibeng municipality between Hartbeespoort and Brits – saying they do not benefit from the minerals that are mined from their ancestral land. 

Obligatory royalties
Some mining companies have been able to produce evidence that they have been paying the obligatory royalties into the D-account, which Modise is a custodian of by virtue of being the premier of the North West. 

Scopa said it had called Modise with an expectation that she should "give the committee a detailed report on the general management of the D-account". 

The committee also wanted Modise to report on a forensic investigation initiated by her office into the D-account, at the same time that the public protector is investigating this account. The forensic investigation's focus is on why money paid into the D-account by mining companies did not reach communities whose ancestral land is being mind.
 

Scopa chairperson Hlomane Chauke said at the meeting that his committee is struggling to understand why R60-million of the province's funds should be spent on a parallel investigation.

"The public protector is already doing the investigation and therefore this money can be used for service delivery," said Chauke.  

Modise told Scopa that she also wants to ensure that the Bapo Ba Mogale community benefits from the minerals being mined; not only through royalties but also shareholding. She said anyone found to have donewrong with the communities' monies would be punished.

"Honourable Chauke in his capacity as a former MEC is quite aware of the discomfort I had with the management of the account and the procurement processes, thus the provincial government has embarked on an investigation on the account," Modise said.

Scopa said while the committee did not suggest that the North West government abandon its responsibility over the D-account, Modise's administration should consider the reality that the public protector is an independent body that can do the investigation effectively. 

'Misuse the funds'
"The committee's role is to assist the executive by making sure that they are accountable for the public purse appropriated to them," said the Scopa statement. 

"Our worry is that the there are people who have no remorse and are continuing to misuse the funds," said the committee.  

Scopa initiated public hearings with affected mining communities after it became clear there's lack of accountability for the hundreds of millions deposited each year in the account. 

The D-account has not been audited for the past 19 years, according the auditor general's office.

A 2010 forensic report, carried out on behalf of the Bakwena Ba Mogopa, claimed that there were "serious gross violations in the procurement and usage of traditional communities' money". 

The Bakwena ba Mogopa and Bapo ba Mogale last year claimed that government officials were mismanaging their trust accounts. It was during this period that they approached Madonsela's office for help, saying their appeals to the North West government were ignored. 

Bapo ba Mogale has got mineral resources worth around R10-billion, over which mining firms Lonmin, International Ferro Metals, Samancor Chrome and Finstone Granite own mining or prospecting rights. 

The Bapo and Bakwena land is rich in platinum and vanadium among other minerals. The level of under-development in these communities is however a far cry from the wealth that's generated in their name. 

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice. Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge

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