Dark clouds over candidates' heads in North West
The ANC’s nomination list for the local government elections in the Ditsobotla Local Municipality in the North West is littered with seemingly unsuitable candidates — one has been convicted of misusing municipal funds for parties, and others are being investigated for soliciting bribes, or for harassing and assaulting residents.
They are in contravention of the party’s own selection rules that require a screening of candidates’ criminal or disciplinary records before they are placed on the list.
Last year former mayor Elizabeth Lethoko was finally convicted by the Lichtenburg regional court of fraud and contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act.
According to court records, in 2007, when Lethoko was in office, she and her co-accused attempted to influence the council’s chief financial officer to pay for her birthday celebration from municipal funds, under the pretence that it was for a Women’s Day celebration.
The court also found that Lethoko and her co-accused tried to influence the same official to pay R200 000 for services that amounted to irregular and unauthorised expenditure.
Lethoko was sentenced to a R10 000 fine or five years in prison. A few months later, she was elected as a national executive committee member of the ANC Women’s League and as part of the local elections team for her area.
Women’s league spokesperson Thoko Xaza did not respond to questions. ANC provincial secretary Dakota Legoete said that Lethoko had paid the fine and therefore qualifies to be a candidate.
“It doesn’t end at the point that she was convicted; she got an option to pay a fine and that is the law which makes her eligible to be a councillor.”
When approached, Lethoko said: “Oh no, oh no, I am not the spokesperson for the ANC. I did not elect myself as a [proportional representation] candidate — that was the [provincial executive committee]; speak to them. If you want information about the conviction, go to court,” she added, before ending the call.
Another former councillor, Joseph Motlhamme — who, police confirmed, has at least two cases of intimidation and assault pending against him — is also on the ANC’s list.
Motlhamme said that most of the cases were opened by women who didn’t know that they “shouldn’t argue” with men. “In my culture, we are taught that you cannot debate with a woman in a meeting. But in politics you will find that most of these women don’t want you to raise your voice when you speak to them because their hearts are very soft. So what must we do?” he said.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said Motlhamme had manhandled and intimidated her. “He’s a gangster and everyone is afraid of him. I’m tired of fighting him.”
The woman, who lives in the ward Motlhamme wants to run, said the incident took place in April on her way to her in-laws’ house to fetch wood. She noticed a commotion.
“Someone approached me, saying that they had called the police because Motlhamme was swearing at people and wanted others to be hired as part of the electrification project.” After she tried to talk to the candidate, he allegedly threatened to burn her house to the ground.
Motlhamme said he had pleaded guilty and paid a fine. “Yes, I accepted the guilty plea but only because it was a mediation and the judge didn’t want this to drag on,” he said.
When asked about an affidavit written by the municipality’s head of security, asking that he be barred from the council premises, he said no one had ever charged him or notified him that he had been interdicted.
“I have never stabbed or beaten anyone. It is my right to enter the premises if I so wish, to get the services I need. This is all just politics and people are jealous that my community loves me and I will win this ward.”
Another candidate with a cloud over his head is also a former mayor. Last year Itsoseng ward nine councillor Molefe Morutse, with seven other councillors, was allegedly caught on tape trying to solicit a bribe from a service provider who recorded the conversation.
The Hawks confirmed that a case was under investigation.
“This was all just a ploy to tarnish my name and I know who those people are. I was not even at the meeting [to solicit the alleged bribe] and I have given my statement to the Hawks,” said Morutse.
He said people are also trying to tarnish his name over a commemorative plaque that was paid for by the municipality during his term as mayor, but was never put up.
According to chief Victor Matlaba from the Bodibe village next to Morutse’s ward, the former mayor had “played” them into agreeing to the initiative.
“Morutse came to me with the idea of a commemorative stone for chiefs who came before me. I gave him the names of the former chiefs and he said that it should be community members who build the structure and the municipality would pay them,” said Matlaba.
But on the day of the planned unveiling, there was no stone. It was finally delivered a week later with the names misspelt.
“I couldn’t put that up and the people who had built the structure also wanted to be paid for their work and that didn’t happen. The plaque was never installed,” he said.
But according to two council members, the municipality spent R350 000 on the plaque and the event to unveil it. Morutse denies this, saying he recalls it costing only R60 000.
The Ditsobotla municipality refused to comment, but the ANC’s Legoete said that the party could not take steps against candidates in cases that were still under investigation and had not been concluded.