The seven Limpopo mayors fired by the ANC for their dealings with VBS Mutual Bank could still be deployed in public service after undergoing “robust political induction and rehabilitation”.
Seven of the 12 municipalities that invested R2.6-billion of public funds in VBS were the biggest losers when the bank collapsed following what Terry Motau SC, appointed by the South African Reserve Bank to investigate the matter, described as “wide-scale looting and pillaging”.
Limpopo Premier Chupu Mathabatha announced the sacking of the mayors in Polokwane on Tuesday, saying the decision followed recommendations by a provincial government-instituted forensic investigation into investments made by municipalities into VBS, which followed Motau’s report.
Mathabatha’s announcement suggested the ANC-led provincial government was taking a hard line. He said: “We want to see arrests, successful prosecutions and serious jail terms for all those who have violated the law.”
But, on the same day, ANC Limpopo provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane said the dismissed mayors would continue to serve as ANC councillors.
The next day, ANC provincial spokesperson Donald Selamolela appeared to backpedal even further when he said in an interview with the Mail & Guardian that the seven “remain members of the ANC and we will not condemn them to death”.
He said they had not been charged and were not facing a party disciplinary hearing. Until then, they were expected to carry out ANC duties, including election campaigning.
He denied that this was sending a wrong message to the public. He said the ANC was not a punitive organisation and believed in rehabilitating errant cadres.
Selamolela said a robust political induction process would involve teaching cadres political administration, how to run a municipality and understanding governance legislation.
Lekganyane laid part of the blame for the saga on “weaknesses” in the party’s deployment strategy, which he said was now being reviewed. He said it didn’t base its decisions on the education levels of its cadres, but on their loyalty and service to the ANC.
Selamolela said the ANC had now taken a decision that all its deployees needed to receive “intense political induction”.
Asked whether this meant that any of the seven mayors could be redeployed to public service after the “intense political induction”, he replied: “You can’t rule that out.”
He said the ANC would ask affected municipality caucuses to appoint acting mayors in the meantime.
In a week of high drama, ANC Limpopo treasurer Danny Msiza, who was implicated by Motau in the decision to invest public funds in VBS, sent a letter to ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, saying he was “stepping aside” from his position. Selamolela said Msiza had not resigned but had merely asked to step aside to respect the recommendations of the party’s national working committee’s resolution, which supported the ANC’s integrity commission’s report that he should do so.
Asked whether stepping aside meant voluntary leave or suspension, Selamolela said the ANC had “comradely asked him to recuse himself”.
Msiza is challenging the Reserve Bank’s report about him in court.
Meanwhile, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi was tight-lipped about their investigation. “The matter is receiving attention. We are giving feedback to the complainant. We have given feedback to Parliament … It’s a very complex case. We need to make sure we close all the loopholes.”
The national directorate of public prosecutions announced that five prosecutors had been made available to work solely on the VBS case. The Hawks said they have dedicated 11 investigators to it.
But Mulaudzi would not say whether any of the mayors fired this week formed part of their investigation. They are from Vhembe district municipality and the Giyani, Collins Chabane, Makhado, Lepelle-Nkumpi, Fetakgomo-Tubatse and Ephraim Mogale local municipalities.
Vhembe district municipality mayor Florence Radzilani, who is also the party’s provincial deputy chairperson, handed in her resignation while the ANC’s provincial executive was deliberating her dismissal. Radzilani, whose municipality invested and lost R300-million, absolved herself of any blame in a brief resignation letter.
Five of the 11 municipalities that invested in VBS were able to recover their funds before the bank went bust, but their leaders are not off the hook. Mathabatha said the crackdown would focus on these mayors, regardless of whether they managed to withdraw the funds. — Mukurukuru Media