A councillor currently serving a jail sentence for rape in the Eastern Cape has been receiving his monthly salary, including benefits such as cellphone allowances and his pension fund.
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Sibongiseni Baba, a former ward councillor at the Matatiele local municipality, was convicted of raping an ANC volunteer, who also worked at the extended public works programme in his ward.
According to the ANC, Baba was suspended as a party member in 2019 after being formally charged.
However, he continued to serve as an ANC councillor and chairperson of the municipal public accounts committee during this time, receiving a monthly salary of close to R20 000.
Baba was found guilty of rape in May and sentenced earlier this month to 10 years in jail by the Mount Fletcher magistrate’s court.
The Mail & Guardian has copies of Baba’s payslips in its possession, which indicate that he has been receiving a salary and council benefits while in prison.
Some of these benefits include a R5 675 housing allowance, a cellphone allowance of R3 400 and mobile data of R300. Baba has also been receiving his pension-fund contributions, the statement shows.
In a statement, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said Baba sent the victims’ supervisor at the expanded public works programme, Leota Tlala — who was also sentenced to five years for sexual assault — to fetch the woman from her home in Thaba Chicha village in the Mount Fletcher district while he waited outside her home in a car.
Tlala tried to force the woman to touch him, but she refused.
Tyali added that when they reached Baba, he drove off with the woman to a secluded area of the village and made sexual advances.
“She resisted the advances, but Baba drove elsewhere and pulled her out of his car and raped her,” said Tyali.
The rape occurred in January 2019 while Baba was a ward councillor, as well as the ANC branch chairperson.
Municipal spokesperson Olwetu Gwanya said that after the criminal charge against Baba, the council placed him on special leave for three months.
She said that a decision was also taken to remove him as committee chair in December 2020.
“Based on the provisions of section 47 (1) (e) of the constitution of the Republic of South Africa, ‘No one may be regarded as having been sentenced until an appeal against that conviction or sentence has been determined’ — the council has decided not to withhold the councillor’s salary until the appeal process has been concluded.”
Gwanya added that the council also condoned the correspondence already instituted by council speaker Nomasomi Mshuqwana to the co-operative governance and traditional affairs department requesting further guidance, adding that an alert was sent to the South African Local Government Association.
ANC Women’s League provincial co-ordinator Nolitha Ntobongwana condemned the actions of the municipality, saying that she would raise this with Mshuqwana.
Ntobongwana said although the municipality might have an excuse for paying Baba’s salary before his incarceration, there was no excuse now.
“That man cannot receive a salary, having been sentenced. He just cannot. The victim is also a volunteer of the ANC, so this will have an effect on the victim. It is totally wrong for someone who is supposed to be serving a sentence to be receiving a salary,” she said.
South African Municipal Workers’ Union spokesperson and secretary general in the Eastern Cape, Luzuko Yalezo, called the payment of Baba’s salary a humiliating embarrassment for the municipality.
Yalezo added that this is not the first time he had heard about an incident of this nature in the province’s municipalities.
“It’s embarrassing that someone who is serving a sentence is still getting a full salary,” he said.
“It’s what is happening generally, because you would think that some of the issues are a mistake, but they are deliberate. There are service providers that are paid double, as if it’s a mistake. It’s proof that Eastern Cape government is corrupt.”
Yalezo added that the union cannot turn a blind eye when the much-needed municipal resources are looted with impunity.
“As a union, we need to see people being held personally and criminally liable for facilitating corruption in municipalities. We should also take note of the fact that in every corrupt relationship, there is a corruptor and a corruptee and, as such, we urge our members to not allow themselves to be put in compromising and illegal activities by their superiors.”
This comes after auditor general Tsakani Maluleke told parliament on Tuesday that municipalities had squandered R26-billion in irregular expenditure in the 2019-20 financial year.
Maluleke said that, of the 257 municipalities across the country, only 27 received clean audits.
She also reported on how a municipality in the Eastern Cape had opted to buy a vehicle for the mayor with its Covid-19 funding.
She said that although the Eastern Cape municipalities improve each year, there were still instances of poor control of the environment.
Maluleke’s predecessor, the late Kimi Makwetu, gave the Matatiele local municipality’s books an unqualified audit opinion with no findings in the 2018-2019 financial year.
The then co-operative governance minister Zweli Mkhize identified the municipality as one of the province’s “distressed municipalities” that needed urgent intervention and for action plans to be developed.