/ 29 June 2018

Soviet ready to clean shop

The ANC’s Soviet Lekganyane wants to combat the party’s reputation for corruption.
The ANC’s Soviet Lekganyane wants to combat the party’s reputation for corruption.

The ANC’s newly elected Limpopo provincial secretary, Soviet Lekganyane, wants action to be taken against political leaders in the eight municipalities in the pronvice that wrongfully invested public money with the embattled VBS Mutual Bank.

He also wants ANC leaders in the provinces’s five regions to stop dictating who should be appointed to municipal manager and other key positions.

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian this week, Lekganyane said that, under his leadership, the party would start implementing “consequence management” against those implicated in wrongdoing to restore the confidence in the ANC that had been lost over the past few years.

Lekganyane said the party would no longer tolerate members who were “milking municipalities until they bleed”, adding there was no doubt that some form of action needed to be taken in the VBS matter.

The bank was placed under curatorship in March because of a liquidity crisis. It was exposed to about R1.5-billion in deposits by about 15 municipalities in the country. Eight of those were in Limpopo, which had collectively invested more than R900-million, and it appears that they are unlikely to recover the money, placing them at risk.

In addition to the government inquiry, Lekganyane said the ANC in Limpopo would summon finance MEC Rob Tooley and co-operative governance MEC Jerry Ndou to provincial headquarters to present reports on how the financial transgressions occurred.

“There should be remedial action taken. VBS is not a commercial bank and in terms of any law that governs government, you cannot invest public money with a mutual bank. That is the first contravention. Once we have that report we will follow up with the respective municipalities for them to tell us [what happened],” Lekganyane said.

“One thing the [ANC] chairperson [Stan Mathabatha] has always spoken about is a lack of consequence management where transgressions have happened. We must find ways in which we don’t purge people because there is a new leadership in administration, but we take corrective action. You can’t allow a lapse of administrative standards.”

Depending on the scope of the ANC’s investigation, the party might find itself having to take action against its newly elected deputy chairperson, Florence Radzilani, who is also the mayor of the Vhembe district municipality.

Of the R900-million invested by Limpopo municipalities, Radzilani’s administration invested the largest amount — R300-million — which made up 35% of the municipality’s operating capital.

Lekganyane said he would not go into the specifics of who had been responsible for what blunder and would wait for the investigation to unfold.

For the new provincial secretary, the VBS matter is one example of the “gross incompetence” he believed had caused a 11.8% decline in support for the ANC in Limpopo during the 2016 municipal elections, as well as the party’s loss of the Thabazimbi, Modimolle and Mookgopong local municipalities.

Lekganyane said administrative incompetence and political interference in the appointment of government officials would have to come to an end to improve the ANC’s chances of success in the 2019 general elections.

“If you have a situation where a region of the ANC can instruct the municipality on who to appoint and who not to appoint, such things allow those practices to creep into the organisation and municipalities will eventually collapse.”

Although the ANC is finding ways to deal with the internal issues that are affecting its governance, the party has already lost some of its support in the province to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The EFF first participated in municipal elections in 2016 and got 16.7% of the vote in Limpopo. In addition to finding appeal among the ANC’s constituency, the EFF is also gaining popularity among a younger generation of voters, whom it will target in next year’s elections.

Despite this, Lekganyane said the ANC did not view the EFF as a threat to its electoral ambitions.

“The reality is that the majority of EFF members were in the ANC. They have just changed the place but the culture remains the same. Our election messages are always very positive. South Africans want those kind of positive messages. They don’t want to feel like you are being quarrelsome or arrogant.” — Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo