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Thuli orders officials to explain Mandela funds

At least 20 Eastern Cape politicians and officials will be called to account for public funds allegedly squandered or creamed off the top instead of being spent on Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

They will be called before public protector Thuli Madonsela, starting next week.

Madonsela has been investigating the scandal for months, and the parade of officials before her to explain their actions will start with mayors and council speakers of OR Tambo and KSD municipalities.

Although not all the names of the politicians and officials were available to the Dispatch yesterday, they have all been subpoenaed to appear. They will have to explain municipal spending on the funeral.

KSD spent more than R21-million on the funeral while OR Tambo reportedly spent about R9-million. In both cases, the municipal councils had not approved the expenditure.

KSD’s municipal public accounts committee (MPAC) has called the spending on the funeral, code named “Project X”, a “project of science fiction”. The mayor of KSD, Nonkoliso Ngqongwa, speaker Dumani Zozo, OR Tambo mayor Nomakhosazana Meth and speaker Robert Nogumla, were served subpoenas last week, along with municipal managers (MM) and chief financial officers (CFOs) of both institutions.

Former KSD CFO Nomthandazo Ntshanga and former MM Zizamele Mnqanqeni have also been called in to account. KSD officials were meant to appear for questioning on March 25, and hired a lawyer to appear with them.

The municipality spent millions buying food for catering in public mourning areas during the funeral. Funds were also spent on flags, T-shirts and wheelie bins, filling potholes and transporting community members to the memorial services. Among the expenses were R788652 on billboards, R92500 for gumboots, and R78200 for golf shirts. Other expenses included R49000 paid to a firm to provide 100 rolls of toilet paper, 120 brooms, 100 cans of air freshener, 100 bottles of toilet cleaner, 50 cleaning cloths and 12 bars of soap.

No response had been received from KSD spokesman Sonwabo Mampoza to Daily Dispatch questions at the time of writing.

The OR Tambo municipality also spent funds on catering, a stand-by generator and bottled water, despite having a large volume of bottled water donated by the Department of Water Affairs.

OR Tambo’s Ayongezwa Lungisa confirmed that the municipality had received subpoenas from the public protector.

KSD has also come under fire from its MPAC which, in its recent report to council, could find no executive authority for the funeral expenditure. According to the report, none of the expenditure had been brought to council for approval.

The committee also recommended that Mnqanqeni and Ntshanga be called to account for their involvement in the expenditure of the funds.

Councillors lambasted KSD officials for hiring a lawyer instead of answering questions themselves.

Civic Alliance of South Africa councillor Pasika Nontshiza said: “The public protector is engaged in a fact-finding mission. Anybody who rushes to hire a lawyer is probably guilty of something. No one has been charged here; why the need for a lawyer? This is unauthorised expenditure of the worst kind.”

UDM’s Wandile Tsipa said it was surprising that leaders opted to be represented by a lawyer. “It is a waste of taxpayers’ money… if there is any wrongdoing, heads must roll.”

DA councillor Raymond Knock said municipal heads needed to be accountable. “They need to avail themselves, innocent or not. It is part of their duty. You cannot be running a municipality, and be unaccountable.”

Public protector spokesman Oupa Segalwe said Madonsela was in the final stages of the investigation and would not comment on who was requested to appear before the protector. — abongilem@dispatch.co.za

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