ANC factional allegiances in Eastern Cape municipalities have shielded councillors accused of wrongdoing from discipline, compromising good governance in the process.
This is what co-operative governance & traditional affairs MEC Xolile Nqatha said as he announced on Monday he had fired King Sabata Dalindyebo ward 4 councillor Mbongeni Mabaso, who apparently duped a desperate home-seeker into paying him R25,000 for an RDP house.
Nqatha, an ANC tripartite alliance heavyweight, said he decided to act against Mabaso because the Mthatha-based council had failed to hold him accountable because he is aligned to the dominant faction.
On Tuesday, Mabaso told the Dispatch he was still waiting for confirmation of his sacking, saying he had heard about it only from the media.
“I would not like to comment at this time because I have not even been to court. I know nothing about this,” he said.
The municipality has not yet declared a vacancy with the Electoral Commission, which would pave the way for a by-election.
Municipal spokesperson Sonwabo Mampoza said: “The honourable MEC’s decision, which we believe is taken in the best interest of our community, has been noted and will be referred to a council meeting scheduled for August 6 [Thursday].”
Mabaso was found guilty after failing to make submissions to Nqatha’s office after the MEC received allegations from residents, he said.
“The gravity of the matter required that council should have acted a long time ago, but it did not, and its delay on the matter represented injustice. Hence I could not ignore that community when the people approached me to intervene.
“I could not support the perpetuation of injustice by those claiming to represent our people. My conscience could not allow that. Matters get overlooked if they affect a certain faction in council, and therefore it gets difficult for the poor to find justice, because matters are looked at through the lenses of factions.
“Increasingly, what we represent, which is the people, is becoming secondary, and factions are becoming primary in how we look at things,” he said.
Nqatha said factionalism was prevalent in many councils, which is “a threat to their renewal”.
Good governance would remain a “pipe dream” if factionalism, which was “at the heart of many battles” in councils, persisted.
On Monday Nqatha’s spokesperson, Makhaya Komisa, said Mabaso was dismissed with immediate effect on a charge of violating the code of conduct for councillors in the Municipal Systems Act.
He was found guilty by a departmental probe of fraud and corruption after a resident in his ward opened a criminal case in Mthatha.
There has not been a guilty verdict in court, but Nqatha said the resident had provided bank deposit slips proving R25,000 had been deposited in the councillor’s account in exchange for the free government house.
Mabasa was also found guilty of:
- * Unilaterally compiling a housing beneficiaries’ list; and
- * Handing food parcels to friends instead of destitute families.
He is not the only councillor who has been accused of manipulating housing lists and of food parcel fraud but he is the first to be found guilty and fired for it.
Another councillor, controversial Buffalo City Metro ward 20 councillor Ntombizodwa Gamnca, who is accused of selling houses to residents but failing to deliver title deeds, is also being investigated by Cogta.
Nqatha declined to comment on this investigation, saying the probe was at a “sensitive stage”.
Mabaso is the seventh councillor to be removed by Nqatha for contravening the Municipal Systems Act since he assumed office in 2019.
Four of them, at Walter Sisulu municipality, were removed after they had been implicated in illegal land invasion.
Their ANC comrade, former council speaker Kholekile Lange, was removed after pleading guilty to 228 counts of fraud relating to travel claims.
Former Amahlathi coucillor Siyabulela Malawu was axed after being found guilty on a number of transgressions, including assaulting a community member with a panga inside council chambers.
Malawu is challenging his sacking in the high court in Makhanda.
By Asanda Nini – DispatchLIVE