The home affairs department has given a Free State municipality an ultimatum to remove former executive mayor Nthateng Maoke from its payroll because she continues to draw a salary as an ordinary councillor, despite having been found to be an illegal immigrant.
In a strongly worded letter to the Setsoto council’s speaker Krog Mokhuoane two weeks ago, the department said that the municipality’s continued employment of Maoke, whom it found during an investigation last year to be a Lesotho national, was in violation of the Immigration Act.
But Maoke is fighting back. Through her lawyers, she has interdicted the government from arresting her or deporting her to Lesotho.
Maoke, who was the ANC’s executive mayor from 2016 in the small municipality of Ficksburg, unceremoniously resigned from her position in December last year, after home affairs alleged that she had fraudulently obtained her South African citizenship.
The ANC in the Free State, however, retained her as an ordinary councillor. According to the ANC, she continued to draw her salary because she had lodged a court review against the department regarding her citizenship status.
Home affairs, however, is now having none of that, and has warned that should the municipality not comply with removing Maoke from its payroll it will take legal action against the council.
“… Mrs Maoke is an illegal foreigner and the review before the court does not suspend the decision taken by the department … You are therefore instructed in terms of section 36 of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 to initiate the process of terminating her employment with immediate effect, failure of which will leave the department with no choice but to take further legal action against the council for employing an illegal foreigner,” the letter read.
As executive mayor, Maoke was getting paid just over R500 000 a year. As an ordinary councillor she draws about R300 000 in salary.
The eastern Free State municipality is made up of Ficksburg, Clocolan, Marquard and Senekal with an estimated population size of 125 751. The municipality has failed many of its residents in terms of service delivery — in Ficksburg, people are still using the bucket toilet system and in December, residents were forced to search for other water access points because their taps spewed muddy water. This is the same town where activist Andries Tatane was killed by police in 2011 during a service delivery protest.
In Senekal, numerous service delivery protests have taken place in the past few years with residents demanding proper waterworks.
The ANC in that province has faced criticism from its own factions and the opposition over its handling of the matter. Mokhuoane told the Mail & Guardian that the municipality has found itself in a tough situation.
“Subsequent to that letter from the department I received a letter from the attorneys of Maoke. They told me that they have an interdict to deport or arrest her until the court has decided over the matter [her citizenship]. It is only then when the high court gives us a judgment on the matter that we can act. There is nothing we can really do now and we have responded to the department,” said Mokhuoane.
The department told the M&G previously that it had reached its decision that Maoke was a Lesotho national not eligible to hold public office, after a thorough investigation which proved that she was an illegal immigrant.
Numerous attempts to get comment from Maoke’s legal representatives Van Aardt & Van Der Walt attorneys were not successful.