22 June 2024 | 01:22 AM

Malema’s allies milked millions from dodgy water projects

Key Takeaways

The water affairs department has written a damning report on a Limpopo district municipality run by a close ally of axed ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and provincial premier Cassel Mathale, indicating that it paid out millions of rand for water projects that were never undertaken or completed.

A investigation has also found that some of the companies awarded contracts by the Mopani district municipality were owned by relatives of Selby Manthata, a prominent Limpopo businessperson, a well-known ally of Mathale and the business partner of Mathale’s wife, Mokgadi Kgohloane.

One of the contracts, for the construction of a pump and pipeline for R3.5-million, went to Manthata’s brother, Makgetsi Manthata. The report says the pump is not operational.

The Mopani district is a water-stressed area. In February last year, the website capewatersolutions reported that “special and urgent intervention is needed to curb the water crisis” there.

Central to the saga is the mayor of the Mopani district municipality, Joshua Matlou, who served as the ANC provincial chairperson in the district alongside Malema in 2006. The two men are friends and allies.

Matlou and Mathale, who hails from the Mopani district, are also known to be friends. Mathale did not dispute the closeness of their relationship when questioned by the Mail & Guardian, but he strongly denied that this had any bearing on the awarding of municipal contracts in the district.

The M&G repeatedly asked Matlou for comment over a four-week period. On Thursday, he referred the M&G to municipal spokesperson Neil Skwambane, who claimed to have responded to the questions. However, the M&G had not received his responses by the time of going to print.

The departmental report, leaked to the M&G, outlines how the district council spent funds allocated by the department in the 2009/10 financial year.

Introducing the report is a lengthy letter by water affairs deputy director Masala Mulaudzi warning municipal manager Tim Maake that the department intended withholding a fourth-quarter payment of R30-million because of issues of noncompliance.

Areas of concern highlighted by the department include service providers being paid for unfinished work or work not done, the council’s failure to adhere to its own supply-chain management policy and lack of cost-effective and competitive procurement practices.

The report reveals that companies owned by Manthata’s siblings benefited from Mopani municipality contracts and that the work was sometimes not properly done. It reveals that:

    • Makgetsi Construction, owned by Makgetsi Manthata, Selby’s brother, received a municipal contract for the replacement of a pipeline and pump in Giyani village worth nearly R3.5-million. The report said the pump station was not operational and “the contractor who constructed the pipeline ­damaged the electric cables to the pump ­station”. Makgetsi was adamant that the company carried out all the work as specified;


    • A borehole supposedly upgraded at a cost of R400 000 by Mokhomazi Trading — a company wholly owned by Manthata’s sister, Constance Malebati — is “not in operation”; and


  • The Mopani council paid R614 460 to a company owned by Manthata’s brother, Makgetsi Construction, for the upgrading of a pumphouse in Mokgolobotho village, even though Makgetsi allegedly knows nothing about the contract. “I never did such work at Mokgolobotho,” he told the M&G.

In 2010, City Press revealed that Makgetsi Construction was a sub-contractor for SGL Engineering Projects, of which Malema was a director. Makgetsi did not dispute his close ties with Malema and his brother’s links to Mathale, but denied that these had played a role in him winning Mopani municipal contracts.

Last year, a losing bidder took Malebati and her partners in another company, Tlong Re Yeng Trading and Projects, to court after the Mopani council awarded it a R200-million contract for the installation of pipes from dams to villages.

The court granted an interdict suspending all work pending determination of whether due process was followed in the tender.

The departmental report also lists the following companies as having received contracts that were either not carried out or properly completed:

    • Jabbeca Trading received almost R1-million for the “excavation of sewerage ponds” at the Murhogolo sewage pump station. The report said “no such work was undertaken”;


    • Almost R400 000 was paid to A-Leo-Projects to equip a borehole in Siyandhani village. Although the report stated that water shortages were “critical in the village”, it said the borehole was still inoperable;


    • Butuka BK received nearly R500 000 to equip a borehole in Petanage. The department said the borehole was “not operational”; and


  • Delta Safety, a Western Cape-based company that went into voluntary liquidation in November 2009, was paid nearly R1.4-million for boreholes in four villages, two of which were not operational.

Water affairs department communications director Linda Page said the department eventually withheld R10-million from the municipality during the 2009/10 financial year.

She said: “The department realised that negotiation with the municipality to resolve outstanding issues was not going to yield a satisfactory outcome … [it] then had to inform the municipality about the intention to withhold the funds before the end of the financial year.”

The department was of the view that the municipality had failed to address adequately areas of concern flagged in the report, she said.

From 2006 until the current financial year, the department had transferred just more than R440-million to the municipality in a bid to address critical water shortages in the district.

When the M&G phoned Malebati, she said: “No comment, I’m sick.” Despite repeated attempts to get comment from Manthata and Maake, they had not responded by the time of going to print.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, supported by M&G Media and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa, produced this story. All views are ours. See our funding sources here: www.amabhungane.co.za/page/sponsors.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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