Nqatha needs to take the next step and cast his net wider for corrupt councillors
The suspension of councillors implicated in irregularities around the distribution of food vouchers is a step in the right direction.
On Wednesday Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha suspended two BCM councillors — Kuhle Ciliza of ward 1 and Roseline Vitbooi and of ward 10 — for three months on allegations of their questionable practices in the metro's R30m food voucher programme. Their salaries will be docked for the period.
The MEC's stance, though lenient, may be welcome news for those who waited in despair for state assistance last year when all activities came to a standstill due to a coronavirus-induced lockdown.
The two disgraced councillors are accused of excluding their ward committees and working with handpicked individuals to identify families for the food voucher programme. In the process some of the destitute were bypassed. One of the councillors even had the audacity to distribute vouchers meant for her ward in areas that fall out of her jurisdiction, excluding the people who voted her into office.
It is these kinds of actions that break public trust between communities and their representatives. People end up not knowing where to direct their grievances, hence the massive service delivery protests we have witnessed across the country in recent times. Legitimate questions about how such self-serving individuals were elected have to be asked.
A worrying factor is that both Vitbooi and Ciliza face other corruption charges in separate incidents. Vitbooi is accused of pocketing R5,000 meant as a donation from council to a grieving family in her ward, and Ciliza is alleged to have solicited a R50,000 bribe from a musician who was awarded sponsorship by BCM.
We must not lose track of the fact that there were numerous complaints of corruption around the metro's food programme last year
Through the alleged malpractices in food distribution, the councillors did not only violate regulations governing how public representatives should behave but also the rights of those they serve and their dignity.
Life has been very difficult under the lockdown regulations as many people's livelihoods are negatively impacted by restrictions on movements and trade. Therefore any help from government should reach the intended beneficiaries without fail.
While we welcome Nqatha's reprimand of the duo, we must not lose track of the fact that there were numerous complaints of corruption around the metro's food programme last year.
It is in this light that we hope the MEC will cast his net wider and bring to book everyone who might have misappropriated funds meant for the destitute. The time to act is now.
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