Axed VBS mayors now face possible criminal charges

Seven Limpopo mayors fired by the Limpopo provincial government for costing the public over R1-billion by investing municipal funds into VBS Mutual Bank still face the possibility of criminal charges and jail time if convicted.

Premier Stan Mathabatha announced on Tuesday that the government had taken a decision to give the seven mayors the boot following recommendations by a forensic investigation into investments made by municipalities in VBS.

“We want to see arrests, successful prosecutions and serious jail terms for all those who have violated the law,” said Mathabatha in Polokwane.

Mayors from Makhado, Vhembe, Fetakgomo Tubatse, Collins Chabane, Makhuduthamaga, Giyani and Elias Motsoaledi municipalities were fired on Monday.

They are among mayors from 11 municipalities that invested public funds totalling R2.6-billion into VBS Mutual Bank in violation of municipal finance regulations and in disregard of warnings by national treasury.

Five of the 11 municipalities were able to withdraw and recover the funds before the bank went bust. But their leadership is not off the hook. Mathabatha said the second phase of the crackdown will also focus on these mayors regardless of whether they managed to withdraw the funds.

He said the government will implement all recommendations made in the forensic report to the letter, including the filing of criminal and civil suits against those implicated.

The decision to fire the mayors comes in the wake of suggestions by opposition parties that the provincial government and the ANC were dilly-dallying around the issue in a bid to protect their comrades implicated in the saga.

ANC provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane blamed the mess on ‘serious weaknesses’ in the party’s deployment strategy which he said was now being reviewed. Lekganyane said it was an open secret that the party’s deployment strategy didn’t base its decisions on the education levels of its cadres but on their loyalty and service to the ANC and its structures.

He said the party’s provincial executive committee resolved there should be ‘serious political consequences’ for mayors implicated. Although the seven have been removed as mayors they will continue to serve as councillors.

READ MORE: VBS saga — Vhembe mayor resigns, 6 other Limpopo mayors told to go

In a dramatic twist to the saga, Vhembe district municipality mayor Florence Radzilani who is also the party’s provincial deputy chairperson tendered her resignation as the ANC’s PEC was deliberating over her dismissal. Lekganyane said they only learned ofRadzilani’s resignation after their meeting.

Radzilani — whose municipality invested and lost R300-million in the bank — has absolved herself of any blame in the transaction in a brief resignation letter.

Limpopo provincial secretary for the South African Municipal Workers Union [Samwu] Patrick Aphane said they want the ANC to pursue all other municipal leaders who invested public funds into VBS but were able to withdraw the funds before the bank was liquidated.

Aphane said this would ‘complete this great puzzle of accountability in order to restore order and integrity within the sector…’

Some of the recommendations in the report are that municipal managers and chief financial officers from the affected municipalities face disciplinary action for violating the Municipal Finance Management Act. —Mukurukuru Media

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Lucas Ledwaba
Lucas Ledwaba
Journalist and author of Broke & Broken - The Shameful Legacy of Gold Mining in South Africa.

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