How To Loot A Municipality

“Provincially, the Western Cape has maintained its leading position for the second year in a row, after taking the top spot from KwaZulu Natal in 2016/17. KZN was the only other province to score above 50. The Free State was the worst performer – a position it has held since 2013/14.”
The best and worst municipalities in every province in South Africa Business Tech 18/5/2018

“What is it like to live in a municipality that is dysfunctional? I would not know because I am fortunate to live in a suburb of Cape Town where my rubbish is collected every Monday like clockwork. Any disruption in services in my area is dealt with from the comfort of our homes; we phone in and services are restored. Interestingly, services are restored very quickly without us needing to take our anger on to the streets.”
The shocking and sad state of local government should be a national outrage, Nomvula Dlamini Daily Maverick 6/6/2018

With the 2019 election probably scheduled for May next year and President Cyril Ramaphosa canvassing for votes in Cape Town, this is an apposite time to reflect on the period – 2003 to 2006 – when the African National Congress controlled the Cape Town municipality and the province.

I have two perspectives on this, one as an SABC reporter who asked for early retirement at the end of 2005 because of pervasive news and general corruption and unaddressed concerns about the abusive way staff members were being treated  at the ANC-controlled state broadcaster and the second as someone employed as a consultant in the media department of the Cape Town municipality from 2007 – 2009.

Immediately the ANC took control of the Cape Town Civic Centre in 2003 it closed down all public meetings, the most important of which, for them, were the tender meetings. Thereafter followed an orgy of looting which saw the municipality lose an estimated R2 billion. This was preceded by a pre-planned purge of senior white officials because they were perceived to be gatekeepers who might prevent the tender scams which were to follow.

Senior white municipal managers were simply told that ‘in the interests of transformation’ they were to be replaced by their juniors who were not white. They could however, accept a very generous retrenchment package that was on offer – funded of course by rates and tax payers. That alone cost the municipality R80 million and lost untold centuries of corporate memory and institutional knowledge as about 100 senior managers saw what was inevitably coming and left.

Floor crossing

The ANC gained control of the Cape Town municipality as a result of floor crossing. Marthinus van Schalkwyk took the rump of the National Party into the ANC where they were welcomed as long lost brothers and sisters and immediately felt at home. Some of them are still there. He was rewarded with a cabinet post and was then made our ambassador in Greece.

Much of this municipal corruption in Cape Town occurred during my final years in the Sea Point news office of the SABC. Every morning during the 9 am news conference we would have a surreal experience. The front pages of the local morning newspapers, the Cape Times and Die Burger would be devoted to articles about the latest corruption story emanating from the ANC-controlled Cape Town municipality – which we were forbidden to cover. We would then be told by the regional editor, Jeffrey Twala and his deputy Kenneth Makatees, that we would be, for example, covering the opening of a ‘new’ housing development by mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo that day. We would then point out that that housing development had, in fact, been officially opened a year before when the municipality was controlled by the Democratic Alliance. We would be told to do the story anyway. This blatant and brazen news corruption became the norm when the state broadcaster was under the control of the ANC’s deployed news enforcers – people like Snuki Zikalala and Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Jimi (the door or the window) Matthews.

When I joined the Cape Town municipality in 2007 I was told that shortly after the ANC gained control in 2003, deployed cadres were parachuted in from around the country and they all knew one another. Within hours they were roaming the corridors of the Civic Centre claiming the best paintings for their offices and within days they were ordering bespoke furniture – rosewood was the preferred choice. Within weeks they were flying all over South Africa to ‘attend conferences’ – always flying first class and always staying at the best hotels, of course. Within months they were attending conferences all over the world.

The moment it became known after the March 2006  municipal elections that the Democratic Alliance had regained control of the municipality, they hit the ground running, heading for the exit and pausing briefly at the office of the then City Manager, Wallace Mgoqui – a brazen ANC acolyte – to request the obligatory – in ANC terms – golden handshakes. He happily acceded only to be told by the municipal legal department that the law did not provide for this.

Pervasive ANC graft

When I joined the municipality in 2007 the illegally-deployed cadres had just left and so I started asking questions about the previously-pervasive ANC graft. I was told that Helen Zille, upon becoming mayor in 2006, had asked for a forensic audit of all the ANC tender scams, Big Bay 1 & 2, Jewellery City and the N2 Gateway/ Thubelisha Homes housing project to name just three. A bulging dossier was handed to the SAPS Commercial Crime Unit – nothing happened and they never received an acknowledgement from the CCU, let alone a response …

A perfect example of this deliberate ANC policy of non-prosecution was when I read that the police were looking for Thabo Mokoena in connection with the Jewellery City scam which saw him gifted R3 million for effectively doing nothing. I Googled his name and found that he was working for a company in Johannesburg which was named. Using Google hardly makes one Sherlock Holmes but it does indicate just how hard an ANC-controlled police force was trying to not bring to justice the deployed snouters who had ‘chowed’ hundreds of millions of rands during this period.

Forensic investigations also showed that the project to drive senior white managers out of the municipality was somewhat, shall we say, dodgy.

As former President Jacob Zuma has said, it’s cold outside the ANC and the post-2006 careers of former Cape Town mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo and Thabo Mokoena indicate that it’s very cosy if you are part of the inner circle. As an apparent reward for the largesse she dispensed when she was mayor, Mfeketo now lives in an R8 million mansion even though her own perfectly-habitable house where she previously lived is only 9 kms away from her current taxpayer-funded luxury abode. To emphasise the point, Mokoena was then appointed as her parliamentary adviser because of his “expertise”.

Close links

The ANC is now desperate to return to the halcyon days when Cape Town provided the most succulent low-hanging fruit for the party’s rent seekers and tenderpreneurs – who can forget the attempted sale of the Somerset Hospital site?

While Marius Fransman has been temporarily expelled from the party, the ANC has shown that it values institutional knowledge and it has accordingly appointed Ebrahim (Brown Envelope) Rasool to co-ordinate its 2019 election program in the Western Cape.

Ramaphoria is fading fast with the news that our economy shrank by 2.2% in the first quarter of 2018.

You have to read Crispian Olver’s How to Steal a City to understand how the ANC’s deployed cadre system works at municipal level but we do know the outcome of the system – the effective collapse of municipalities under ANC control and the result of that collapse – ‘The smoke that calls’.

“We are tired of taking crumbs from the white man’s table” was then  Cape Town mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo’s explanation of how Tokyo Sexwale had got the Big Bay tender despite it being R37 million less than the offer of Irish philanthropist Niall Mellon who had a proven track record of building houses for the poor.

The tender stipulated that the winning consortium had to build homes for the poor.

When I joined the municipality in 2007 I asked officials in the housing department how many dwellings for the indigent had been built as a result of the Big Bay tender. Not unexpectedly, the answer was none.

That’s how the ANC rolls, but will it get a chance to repeat this looting of the Cape Town municipality after next year’s election?

It’s an important question because ANC municipal corruption just goes on and on and on and on and never stops.

As the anchor quotes to this article indicate, Capetonians enjoy better than average service delivery.

Will they, in next year’s election seek a return to the era when the ANC looted the municipality with impunity and drove out some of its finest talents because they were white?

Ed Herbst

Ed Herbst started his news career as a photographer with the Natal Witness in 1968 but quickly switched to reporting while retaining an interest in photography. He joined the SABC in its Pretoria news office as a camera reporter in 1977, one year after television was introduced in South Africa. In 1978 he was seconded to the SABC’s Windhoek office for six months to cover the run-up to the country’s UN-monitored election and was then posted to the SABC’s Sea Point news office. He asked for early retirement in 2005 because of pervasive SABC corruption, news censorship and unaddressed abusive treatment of staff. From 2007 to 2009 he was employed as a consultant in the media department of the Cape Town municipality but became a pensioner when personal circumstances forced him to retire. He now writes without remuneration for local websites about the interface between media and politics. He is writing a book on media capture after 1994.

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