SMME operators protest against corruption at OR Tambo district municipal offices

OR Tambo district mayor Thokozile Sokanyile delivers her state of the district address on Friday.
OR Tambo district mayor Thokozile Sokanyile delivers her state of the district address on Friday.
Image: SUPPLIED

A small group of angry independent contractors protested outside the OR Tambo district municipal offices in Mthatha on Thursday, demanding the removal of officials and companies implicated in corruption.

District mayor Thokozile Sokanyile assured the protesters that anyone found guilty of corruption and misappropriating municipal funds would go straight to jail.

However, she said that would depend on the outcomes of investigations being conducted into the district authority by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Hawks.

The investigators were also looking into reports that R168m had been paid out to companies, some of which allegedly had not done any work.

The Dispatch reported in July that members of forums and SMMEs in the five local municipalities had handed over a petition demanding lifestyle audits for all municipal officials and that at least 70% of projects be ring-fenced and allocated to local contractors.

They also claimed that OR Tambo district municipal bosses favoured outside companies when it came to tenders.

About 30 small business owners affiliated to the OR Tambo Business Forum took part in Thursday’s protest outside the district municipality’s offices, demanding answers from authorities on their memorandum.

They confronted Sokanyile, deputy mayor Robert Nogumla and chief whip William Ngozi, saying they would not back down until those under scrutiny in a forensic probe conducted by an independent investigator hired by the district municipality were suspended while the investigation continued.

But Sokanyile said the municipality could not suspend people willy-nilly, saying everything had to be done within the prescripts of the law.

Forum chair Ndumiso Ngcebetsha retorted that the municipal manager Owen Hlazo had been placed on suspension by the council while investigations continued and questioned why other people were allowed to continue to work.

KSD Business Forum executive member Athi Petela told the Dispatch on the sidelines of their protest that some of the implicated officials had been linked to another ongoing corruption investigation at Alfred Nzo district municipality, where they previously worked.

“Those people are busy working and processing payments and yet they are part of an ongoing investigation,” he said.

Ngcebetsha told Sokanyile, Nogumla and Ngozi that the forum had also been approached by members of one of the communities who told them how a private company had been given a R40m advance for a water project but had not done any work.

Subsequently, another contractor had been appointed to carry out the work.

Ngozi said it was unfortunate that politicians were not allowed to sit in tender adjudication committees and were only roped in when things went sour.

But he said it was important that they listened to the concerns of the business community and tried to find a solution to their concerns.

The protesters also warned Sokanyile that they would make the municipality ungovernable should those implicated in corruption not be removed.

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