The heat has been turned up on two influential North West province figures who were implicated by assassinated councillor Moss Phakoe in corruption allegations.
Phakoe was gunned down in March 2009, two days after meeting Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka and handing over a dossier of allegations about office bearers and officials in the Bojanala District Municipality, which includes Rustenburg and Brits.
Last month the Mail & Guardian reported that North West businessman Oupa Mphomane and former Rustenburg mayor Matthew Wolmarans were among those accused by Phakoe of improprieties with regard to a tender to outsource the Rustenburg Kloof resort.
Both men denied any wrong-doing in the tender or involvement in the murder, though Mphomane confirmed last month that detectives had previously questioned him about a meeting he had with Wolmarans about a week before the killing.
Now police have confirmed they are again in the process of questioning Mphomane and Wolmarans in the course of the murder investigation.
Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Thulane Ngubane said that Mphomane’s house was searched on Tuesday and he was taken to the police station for questioning before being released. He also confirmed that Wolmarans was being questioned.
“The police are questioning them because they feel that they have something to answer in the case. This is part of the investigation and I cannot confirm or deny whether they are possible suspects.”
However, Mphomane flatly denied that a raid took place or that the police questioned him.
“That never happened. My attorneys advised me not to comment to the media because there are serious allegations that are being made in my name and it has resulted in people not wanting to do business with me,” he said before he hung up.
Wolmarans could not be reached for comment.
According to the original allegations made by Phakoe, the Rustenburg Kloof tender was awarded to Omaramba, a company co-owned by Mphomane, in spite of the fact that its bid was the second highest.
Wolmarans, at the time, chaired the committee responsible for recommending the successful bidder.
The allegations suggested that Wolmarans’s sister-in-law, Silvia Moeng, was a shareholder in Omaramba when it was awarded the contract.
Last month Wolmarans denied to the M&G that he was part of the final decision to award the contract or that he was aware of Moeng’s involvement.
Phakoe’s allegations appear to have contributed to Wolmarans’s removal as mayor in February 2010 but, with backing from Mphomane, he made a comeback at the ANC provincial conference earlier this year, returning as a provincial executive committee member. He has since also returned to the local council as speaker.
Following public complaints of slow progress in investigating the murder, North West provincial police commissioner General Zukiswa Mbombo appointed a special team of detectives from outside the province in September 2010.
Nevertheless, the provincial arm of Cosatu is to march to the Rustenburg police station today to demand answers about why no one has yet been arrested.
Cosatu provincial secretary Solly Phetoe has issued a statement saying: “The late Moss Phakoe was buried on 27 March 2009. Since then, we have been told by the police that the investigation is at an advanced stage. When is it going to be at the arrest stage? When is it going to be at the trial stage? When is the advanced stage ending? Somebody must respond to these questions.
“Cosatu will not rest until somebody answers our questions with a clear response as to who killed the late Moss. The workers, communities, business people, political parties, young people of this province and ancestors know that the late Moss was killed for exposing corruption in the Rustenburg municipality, including the matter of Rustenburg Kloof and the fight for service delivery to the poor communities.”
Phetoe said the protesters were prepared to die for justice to take its course.
“We are prepared to be murdered for fighting against corruption and lack of service delivery in the province. We will fight until the suspects behind Phakoe’s murder are jailed.”
Phetoe also took aim at Wolmarans, calling for his removal from the ANC election list and as speaker of the local council.
“We can’t have someone with a cloud of corruption allegations being re-appointed in a government institution,” he said.
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 the centre’s. www.amabhungane.co.za.