/ 6 December 2018

NW agriculture MEC fired

North West agriculture MEC Manketsi Tlhape
North West agriculture MEC Manketsi Tlhape (L), an ally of former premier Supra Mahumapelo, denies a herd of cattle was delivered by AgriDelight to her farm. (Tiro Ramatlhatse/ Sowetan/Gallo Images)

North West agriculture MEC Manketsi Tlhape, alleged to have taken 44 cattle meant for an emerging farmer, was fired by Premier Job Mokgoro on Thursday afternoon.

Tlhape was one of the casualties in what is to be Mokgoro’s first Cabinet reshuffle since taking the reins from his predecessor Supra Mahumapelo

Mahumapelo unceremoniously vacated the post after a wave of service delivery protests.

Three independent sources said the Cabinet reshuffle was meant to “strengthen” government performance in the North West province.

The Mail & Guardian revealed in September how Tlhape, an ally of Mahumapelo, was alleged to have instructed officials at AgriDelight to deliver a herd of Simbra cattle to her R3-million farm in the Magaliesberg area on June 23 2017.

READ MORE: Whistleblower fingers North West leaders in ‘farm scam’

The cattle, worth more than R500 000, were meant for an emerging farmer in her hometown of Delareyville.

Tlhape, who served on that province’s ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC) and its working committee before it was disbanded, claimed at the time that she did not issue an instruction for cattle to be delivered to her farm and did not recall any being delivered there.

“No, I have to check. I don’t remember any Simbra cattle at my farm that were delivered by AgriDelight.”

The AgriDelight company was appointed by Tlhape’s department in 2014 as an implementing agent for rural, environmental and agricultural development programmes. A senior government official in that province confirmed that Tlhape was being fired for issues related to AgriDelight and other matters.

This was confirmed by another source in the ANC, who told the M&G that Tlhape was axed because of her alleged involvement in AgriDelight scandals. “The scandals that have been reported in the media and many other issues are getting her fired,” said the ANC official.

Documents seen by the M&G in September showed that the cattle were delivered to Tlhape’s farm on June 23 last year and her half-brother, Thabo Raphoto, signed the delivery notes.

The documents also detailed how there were three deliveries; the first of 15, followed by another of 16 and finally 11, with two calves.

“Thabo is my half-brother; that is why I am saying I will have to check because he is been staying there,” said Tlhape at the time.

“So I don’t remember me receiving that [the cattle]. I will have to check with him. I have never made any arrangement to receive any Simbra cattle with AgriDelight.”

She said her cattle were mixed breeds, “so I would not know which are Simbras and which are not.

“I don’t have cattle that I received from AgriDelight. If Thabo says he received cattle, I would not know what cattle, because the only cattle that I have — I do not know their names per se — it’s the cattle that I have been buying myself. I have never given instructions to AgriDelight. It works for the department, not with me,” she said at the time.

When questioned, Raphoto said: “I have never signed for any cattle and I have never received any cattle when I was at the farm. Manketsi [Tlhape] never told me anything. I don’t know her.”

A source with intimate knowledge of the dealings at AgriDelight and the North West agriculture department had told the M&G that the instruction came directly from Tlhape.

Read the statement from the North West Office of the Premier announcing changes to the provincial executive:

MEDIA STATEMENT – Changes to the Provincial Executive – 06 December 2018 by Mail and Guardian on Scribd