Controversy surrounds former mayor

The former ANC executive mayor of the Free State’s Setsoto local municipality — who resigned amid allegations of fraudulently obtaining South African citizenship — continues to draw a salary after challenging the department of home affairs in court over her status.

Nthateng Maoke resigned in December last year with immediate effect as the mayor of the small Ficksburg municipality after the department of home affairs disputed her South African citizenship and insisted that she is a Lesotho national, which disqualified her from holding a public office in the country.

Lesotho amended its Constitution to allow dual citizenship only in 2018.

As an executive mayor, since September 2016 Maoke was being paid just more than R500 000 a year but now, as an ordinary councillor, she earns an annual salary of about R300 000.

Maoke, who is still serving in the municipality as a councillor, has dragged the department to court for a review of its decision, arguing that she is a South African citizen with a genuine identity document.

However, home affairs media manager David Hlabane told the Mail & Guardian that an investigation had been conducted into Maoke by the department and it was discovered that she was not a South African citizen.

“A thorough investigation we did using the information supplied to the department led us to dispute her nationality. But now the matter is with the high court and they are better placed to know the outcome. Upon the decision by home affairs to challenge the identity of the mayor, she applied for judicial review. Now the decision rests with the high court,” said Hlabane.

Home affairs regional head in the Free State, Bonakele Mayekiso, said that the former mayor was asked to leave the country.

“I also know, she was asked for her documentation and to leave the country. She is still around and the matter is in court. She says she is a South African citizen,” said Mayekiso.

Municipal speaker Krog Mokuane, who had accepted Maoke’s resignation, said that the former mayor was still drawing her salary as an ordinary councillor because of the outstanding court battle with the department of home affairs.

“She remains as an ordinary councillor and the salary or the allowance she receives is on the basis that she is an ordinary councillor. After her resignation, the minister of home affairs and [the] director general, sent their law-enforcement officers to deport her to Lesotho, but in the midst of that her legal representative took the matter to the high court for review. What we are awaiting as the municipality is whether the appeal is upheld or not.

“If the court says that she must be deported then she will cease to be a member of the council,” said Mokuane. The eastern Free State municipality comprises Ficksburg, Clocolan, Marquard and Senekal, with an estimated population of 125 751.

ANC spokesperson in the province, Thabo Meeko, also confirmed that even though Maoke was removed as the mayor after the home affairs investigation, she was still earning a salary from the municipality.

“It’s a certain technicality that justifies why she is still kept on our payroll. She informed us that she is a South African citizen and legally so. As a result, [she] will be challenging the department of home affairs in court over these allegations,” Meeko told the M&G.

“The municipal manager can explain better some of the reasons why her salary is still being paid … This matter is sub judice and the ANC has been briefed that she appealed the home affairs decision and the court of law will pronounce. We will act based on the outcome,” he added.

Setsoto municipality’s Tshepiso Ramakarane said the home affairs department had been after Maoke even before she was made executive mayor. “Unfortunately, it’s up to the party to determine whether she gets a salary. She did resign as mayor and not as an ANC councillor, and since she has appealed the home affairs decision with the high court, she still is entitled to a councillor salary. She is a PR [proportional representation] councillor at Setsoto.”

The ANC has faced criticism from its own factions and the opposition over its handling of the matter. “There was never even an ANC council meeting that was told about the resignation of the mayor. This issue was covered well [kept under wraps] internally — even the fact that the mayor was never deported to Lesotho, as this was alleged to be the case,” said a former ANC council member in the municipality.

The Democratic Alliance in the province also said that the former mayor should not be in any leadership structures of the municipality, let alone receiving a salary.

“The minister of home affairs and the MEC must both intervene on this. We are writing a letter to them already. We can’t allow someone from another country to hold a councillor’s position. We are challenging this. I am told that this is before the courts now, but we want her removed and that process to be sped up,” said DA MPL David van Vuuren. 

The DA also sent similar letters to department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs and Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) offices in the Free State last year demanding a confirmation of Maoke’s nationality. 

Despite numerous attempts by the M&G to obtain comment from Maoke, she did not respond to phone calls or text messages.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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