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The shock report Grahamstown hid from the minister

Date Released: Sat, 20 September 2014 11:32 +0200

Town boss flees mob in same week as Gordhan demands reasons for council's water mayhem.

PRAVIN Gordhan has been handed a report on the maladministration and fraud that has led to the collapse of municipal services in Grahamstown and the surrounding district which, until this week, had been kept under wraps.

The report is said to contain damning evidence that goes to the heart of the collapse of local government in the Makana municipality in the Eastern Cape. It was compiled by East London auditing firm Kabuso and implicates senior local officials and councillors in allegedly corrupt transactions that have cost the municipality millions. The municipality's acting manager, Themba Mnguni, did not respond to questions.

Asked about the report, provincial co-operative governance superintendent-general Stanley Khanyile said his department was made aware of its existence on Thursday when Gordhan made an emergency visit to the city. It is unclear why Mnguni, who was seconded from the provincial government in April to oversee the municipality, had kept the 158-page document a secret since obtaining it about two months ago. "We were not aware of it until the meeting with the minister and the Makana municipality," said Khanyile. "We have not seen its contents. We requested a copy and it has just been delivered to our offices."

Asked whether the report would be made public, Khanyile said : "It depends on whether it's in the public interest. However, all that being said, we did not commission it. It would depend on the municipality." It has also emerged that the cash-strapped municipality cannot afford to pay an estimated R500 000 owed to the auditing firm for the forensic investigation that was commissioned around October last year. Kabuso director Roland Pillay declined to comment.

Just days before Gordhan's fact-finding mission in Grahamstown this week, the municipality was thrown into further crisis when: Outraged municipal workers were not paid on time on Monday, resulting in the workforce chasing Mnguni through the streets of Grahamstown. The acting municipal manager fled into oncoming traffic as workers attempted to force open his car door; The town, including Rhodes University, was without water after a pipe burst on Friday last week.

For five days, hundreds of residents who could not afford to buy water queued with buckets and 20-litre drums at a local spring; and The city ground to a halt on Wednesday as about 500 residents marched to the city hall, chanting and demanding that the entire council step down. Mayor Zamuxolo Peter told the protesters his council would step down only if the province told them to. The protest march was the largest demonstration against poor municipal services since August last year, when 1 000 Rhodes University staff and students and residents took to the streets after more than nine days without water.

At the time, Rhodes, which pays the municipality about R2.5-million a month in rates and service charges, warned that the early closure of the university because of the water outage would cause economic disaster for the city. On Friday, some of the university's 46 residences were still without water. University spokesman Zamuxolo Matiwana said bottled drinking water had been provided for students, as well as buckets of water to flush toilets.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, her deputy, Pamela Tshwete, and water and sanitation parliamentary committee chair Lulu Johnson are expected in Grahamstown tomorrow. Gordhan, who visited Grahamstown on Thursday following a Sunday Times exposé of the municipality's financial crisis, demanded a copy of the closely guarded forensic report. DA MP Andrew Whitfield said although DA councillors were aware that Kabuso had been commissioned to conduct a forensic investigation, the completed report had never been tabled in the council.

"The DA has been kept in the dark as far as the report is concerned. Criminal charges must be laid against councillors found to have interfered in the running of the municipality," he said. Other opposition party politicians are pinning their hopes on Gordhan's intervention. Gordhan said a forensic review of finances and expenditure would be announced "in due course". Insiders said Gordhan would first review the Kabuso report before undertaking another investigation.

The Sunday Times revealed last week that the municipality's MB account had been attached by a contractor owed R6million and that creditors were owed R132-million.

Scores of desperate contractors, who have abandoned vital municipal projects after waiting for payments since December, are now threatening to attach municipal buildings, fire trucks and even refuse removal vehicles. The official mayoral car, a R332 916 Toyota, was attached and auctioned on July 25 for R180 000 to pay a contractor. Gordhan placed the municipality under administration for three months on Thursday. The Sunday Times has established that some ANC councillors introduced a motion of no confidence in the mayor at a special council meeting on Friday. The issue was adjourned.

pitisos@sundaytimes.co.za The DA has been kept in the dark as far as the report is concerned Matrics hit hard by faulty loos A GRAHAMSTOWN high school has had to cut classes to just three hours day this year because of th city's water shortage. Since January, the TEM Mrwetyana Senior Secondary school, which has 562 pupils, has had onl two working toilets. Classes start at 8am and the final bell rings at llam.

The cash-strapped Makana municipality abandoned a project in March to repair some of th damaged toilets and replace cracked and stolen copper pipes linking the school to the city's dilapidated sewerage line. Until recently, stateowned schools in the region were maintained by the municipality.

Principal Lindelo A GRAHAMSTOWN high school has had to cut classes to just three hours a day this year because of the city's water shortage. Since January, the TEM Mrwetyana Senior Secondary school, which has 562 pupils, has had only two working toilets. Classes start at 8am and the final bell rings at 11am. The cash-strapped Makana municipality abandoned a project in March to repair some of the damaged toilets and replace cracked and stolen copper pipes linking the school to the city's dilapidated sewerage line. Until recently, stateowned schools in the region were maintained by the municipality.

Principal Lindelo Ramokolo said: "The situation is crippling us. our Grade 12 pupils are the worst affected." The school's 58 "illequipped" matric pupils are expected to start writing their trial exams tomorrow. Provincial education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said his department would place seven mobile toilets at the school ground in coming weeks. The school, which is on the outskirts of Joza township, produced the top matric achiever in the district's historically disadvantaged schools in 2013.

Pictures by: PHILLIP NOTHNAGEL

Picture Caption: RUNNING DRY: Zinzi Mpati and Ayabulela Dimaza go home at noon every day because the toilets at their school have no water

By Simphiwe Piliso

Article Source: SUNDAY TIMES (First Edition) 31 Aug 2014

Source:Sunday Times