Ventersdorp mayor in corruption spotlight

The Citizen
by Vicky Somniso-Abraham 13 May 2015 10h30

Ventersdorp Municipality in North West is in danger of collapsing from poor management.

Under the leadership of ANC mayor Celia Phoyane, the municipality has been accused of poor service delivery, corruption, maladministration and mismanagement of funds.

Claims that the mayor has issued tenders to her friends and relatives, illegally appointed staff and rigged tenders are doing the rounds, but the ANC continues to back her.

Under Phoyane’s watch, more than a R1 million was lost under the guise of building an indoor swimming pool.

At least R1.3 million was spent on paving an isolated park and another R1.2 million meant for sports facilities disappeared.

The Citizen team visiting Ventersdorp found that the park and swimming pool on which the municipality claimed it spent millions of rands did not exist. The so-called park was just a patch of bushveld with a little paving.

The municipality had bought three farms to build houses on, but not a single RDP house had been erected there.

Issues of poor service delivery, including water problems, burst sewerage pipes left unattended for weeks and uncollected rubbish have troubled the town, say residents.

Water provision is interrrupted every day from 7am to 5pm.

The Citizen team found no water available, even at the municipal offices. In some areas the water, when available, produced a white foam that caused diarrhoea, some community members claimed.

Community leader Khuduga Dibe, who has led service delivery protests in the area, said the ANC was defending the mayor despite the claims against her.

“We have a strong belief that she is the only one who is protected in Ventersdorp. If she gets suspended, the whole of the ANC comes to the Ventersdorp to defend her.”

United Front local coordinator Pule Plaatjie said: “In Ventersdorp things that are abnormal are normal, and those that are not normal, they make them normal with the blessings of the ANC.”

Mayor Phoyane said: “Those people belong to the opposition party … Some of them are trying to position themselves because we are now facing the local government elections.”

One of the farms on which RDP houses were supposed to be built had been bought for agricultural purposes before she became mayor, she claimed.

The problems with the park had occurred prior to 2005 and 2006, before she took office [in 2006], she said.

“It was supposed to be funded by the lottery board but they took their money back”.

Sewage spills out into the backyard of a property in Ventersdorp, 05 May 2015. Picture: Refilwe Modise

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Vavi vows not to return to ‘tamed dog’

The Citizen 

by Ngwako Modjadji 6 May 2015 10h50

Former Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi has ruled out the possibility of going back to the troubled labour federation, saying it would be against what he stands for.

Vavi labelled Cosatu leadership a “gang of murderers” and accused them of turning Cosatu into a “sweetheart” federation. He likened the labour federation to a tamed dog.

Speaking at the Democratic Nurses Union of SA Gauteng provincial executive committee meeting in Woodmead, Johannesburg, Vavi vowed yesterday not to appeal his dismissal from Cosatu.

“I have decided not to appeal against my dismissal,” said Vavi. “If I was to waste another million rand running to courts, I will then face the reality of having to be dismissed again.”

Vavi alleged several Cosatu leaders were involved in corruption.

“If you can’t fix those things, what is the point of fighting to go to back such a federation,” he said.

“The only time I will appeal will be in a legitimate conference which involves the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and all purged unions.”

In what appeared to be a snub, Vavi poured cold water on Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema’s call for a labour federation that would counter Cosatu.

“The EFF is a product of the political crisis unfolding in our society,” said Vavi. “It is the product of intolerance created by the ANC. I am not going to clean the mess created by the ANC. I have views about the EFF and I am not going to say these views in public.”

Responding to calls he should step forward and lead Numsa’s umbrella entity, the United Front, Vavi said: “I have no qualms whatsoever personally to work with such an organisation.”

“I am not going to run away from any United Front as long as it is about pursuing the struggle against (the) neo-liberal.”

He said some Cosatu affiliates never welcomed the ANC’s intervention task team charged with healing the labour federation.

“Some unions saw it as (Deputy President) Cyril Ramaphosa, (ANC secretary-general) Gwede Mantashe and (ANC treasurer-general) Zweli Mkhize propping up support for the ANC congress in 2017,” said Vavi.

Workers worse off under ANC – Kasrils

iol By Lebogang Seale March 4 2015 at 01:34pm Johannesburg – In a stinging attack on the ANC, former minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils has accused the ruling party of pandering to the demands of capitalism at the expense of workers and poor people. Kasrils said the ANC leadership was “locked in a disease syndrome” for lacking the willpower to tackle capitalism, while most workers and the poor bore the brunt. He said

South Africans were economically worse off now than during apartheid.

“Today we are here in one of the richest cities on the continent and statistics show that our people are worse off today than they were in 1994, from an economic point of view,” he said on Tuesday, addressing a United Front march to the Gauteng legislature to protest against “a capitalist budget”. It was one of Kasrils’s rare public addresses since he and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge launched an anti-ANC election campaign called “Sidikiwe! Vukani! (We’ve had enough). Tuesday’s march drew support from political parties such as the EFF, Workers and Socialist Party and Socialist Party of Azania as well as community-based organisations from across Gauteng. The hundreds of protesters cheered when Kasrils was introduced as the guest speaker, along with National Union of Metalworkers of SA first deputy president Christine Olivier. Kasrils is a member of United Front’s national working committee. “Yes, we have the votes and so on, but in terms of actual poverty, the research and the stats show that our people are worse off in terms of poverty than they were in 1994. We are in a rich country where over half of our people are going to bed hungry every day. And we see it in our streets, in our workplaces, in our townships and informal settlements and jikeleli (all around) South Africa in the countryside.” Kasrils asked what had gone wrong and how it could be remedied “because Luthuli House down the road has failed and is really serving the wealthy comrades. That is not a secret.” Kasrils then took a swipe at President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. “And it (the ANC) has a deputy president of the country that was able to bid R18m for one silly bull, which shows the nature and character of those who lead the party. “Needless to state about Number 1 (Zuma) who uses the taxpayers’ money for R270m upgrades at that stinking palace at Nkandla.” While he criticised the Gauteng and national budgets as “a joke”, Kasrils said there was nothing Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and MEC Barbara Creecy could do because they were both “benign offspring” of a capitalistic budget. “(The budget) is decided in a small room, with Number 1, the finance minister and the Treasury. And I can tell you, I have been a minister before, the ministers have no say.

“That small group is the one that decides at the bidding of international capital and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank at the expense of the working class and the poor.

“The Budget is not delivering to the poor. They are cutting, they are forcing the poor to pay, so electricity is going up and those living in Sandton, Melville, Constantia and places like that are not going to worry.” ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa dismissed Kasrils’s assertions, saying he was part of an anti-ANC campaign. “Kasrils has long defined himself outside the ANC and it’s not that we are shocked. It has become fashionable for him to become an agent of everybody speaking against the ANC,” he said. The Star Ronnie Kasrils greets Gauteng legislature Speaker Ntombi Mekgwe after he addressed a United Front march on Tuesday. Picture: Itumeleng English

Take back parliament for the people, declares R2K

Members and supporters of the Right2Know campaign rallied in the Cape Town CBD yesterday and vowed to take back Parliament for the South African public. This was in response to events at the State of the Nation Address (SONA) which had a “profoundly negative impact on our democracy” according to the organisation.

“Biko sacrificed his life for the nation… Robert Sobukwe sacrificed his life for the nation … Jacob Zuma sacrificed the nation for his life!”

This comment by Khayelitsha resident and Right2Know supporter Sibusiso Xabangela was met by an outburst of agreement from around 400 people packed into the Methodist Church on Greenmarket Square, Thursday evening. It was a moment which seemed to capture the collective disillusionment which the speakers and their audience had shared over the course of an hour and a half of discussion.

The event condemned the ANC’s and the state’s actions in parliament last week during the State of the Nation Address (SONA). The jamming of cellphone signals in the chamber prior to Zuma’s address and the violent removal of Economic Freedom Fighters’ MPs by police officers was the main focus. The ANC were bemoaned for rolling back on Constitutional freedoms and democratic principles in a number of ways.

Playwright and activist Mike van Graan took the government’s and the ANC’s intimidation of artists like Brett Murray, creator of The Spear, as a tactic which fosters self-censorship in the arts.

“The freedom fought for and enshrined in our Constitution is contradicted by the very people who remind us that it was they who fought for our freedom. They practice a [Mugabe-ist doctrine] in reminding us that they can also take [our freedom] away,” he said.

The people of South Africa don’t want police in Parliament, declared Phumeza Mlungwana, Social Justice Coalition general secretary. “We want them in the streets of Khayelitsha and Manenberg to ensure that we are safe!”

With reference to a recent advertisement by KwaZulu Natal Department of Human Settlements seeking a private contractor to monitor and prevent “land invasions”, the United Front’s Mazibuko Jara compared the ANC-run state to the apartheid state.

“It is the department’s duty to provide housing, not to monitor the poor’s struggle for land. But, the needs of poor people for land has been turned into a question of security, much like the struggle for freedom was turned into a security issue by the apartheid state.”

Jane Duncan, academic and author of the recent book The Rise of the Securocrats, sketched how the work of an increasingly centralised, secretive and powerful security cluster was being geared away from protecting citizens, towards “protecting the president from the people”.

“The State Security Agency has developed warped priorities. What does it do about the assassinations of political activists in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal? Yet, it has time enough to install cell phone jammers in Parliament,” she said, before turning her scrutiny on herself and the South African public at large.

“[The turning of the security cluster against the people] has happened because we have allowed it to happen.”

The overwhelming theme on Thursday night was not the public’s failure to hold an elite to account, but the will to “take parliament back” as a space created by the struggle for freedom of ordinary citizens against apartheid — a “people’s parliament”.

Missing in person, but not in spirit, was the late South African author, R2K supporter and “advocate of truth and transparency” André Brink. Shireen Mukadam paid tribute to him by quoting a passage from one of his seminal works, A Dry White Season. It reminded the gathered activists of one of Brink’s enduring lessons to South Africans, that there are two dangers in life, the assumption that we can do everything and, the assumption that we can do nothing.

 

Juliet Plaatjies, a Social Justice Coalition member from Khayelitsha, joins in singing struggle songs at the Right2Know campaign’s mass meeting in the CBD. Picture by Daneel Knoetze.

UF campaign to be thorn in ANC’s side

IOL

January 30 2015 at 01:11pm
By Amy Musgrave

Johannesburg – The United Front’s (UF) mission to build an alternative centre for worker and community campaigns kicks off with a vengeance this year, and will prove to be a thorn in the ANC’s side just over a year before the next round of elections.

The campaigns, aimed at helping the UF grow its membership base ahead of its official launch in June, will centre around South Africa’s most pressing issues such as electricity, education and xenophobia.

“We have to organise for action. We have to make demands so strong and so sustained that they (the ANC) absolutely have no choice but to say that they, the majority, are saying this is how we have to move forward,” said co-convenor for the UF, Kwezilomoso Mbandazayo.

“Our communities and many of us went to sleep a little bit in terms of living in this post-aparthied democratic South Africa where we do not feel like, or need to, or must challenge the powers that be, and the front is trying to organise those struggles and act as the base to amplify all of the voices so that they are not in isolation.”

While the ANC has publicly tried to underplay the threat of the United Front, which was spearheaded by its one time ally, metalworkers union Numsa, there are already signs the ruling party is gearing up for the challenge heading into next year’s municipal poll.

Party leaders have started paying more visits to areas where the UF has strong support and where the ANC is particularly weakened by infighting, such as the Nelson Mandela Metro in the Eastern Cape. The party barely held on to the city in the 2011 election.

Although the UF is issue driven and politically nonpartisan, if its campaigns are successful, it will present a direct challenge to the ANC’s hegemony, particularly in townships and other traditional strongholds.

The front’s campaign against xenophobia has already been launched, with the next meeting in Soweto, South Africa’s biggest township, on Saturday.

The meeting will be attended by the UF’s steering committee, the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, Gauteng Concerned Residents, Voice of the Poor and the Democratic Left Front.

The government has denied that the recent outbreak of violence against shopkeepers around Johannesburg is a result of xenophobia, blaming it on criminals instead .

Ronnie Kasrils, a member of the steering committee and a previous intelligence minister, said the ANC did not want to scare off foreign investment by admitting that Afrophobia existed in the country.

He also said that if the government admitted that the attacks were xenophobic, it would be an admission that decisions taken to deal with the matter following a spate of attacks in 2008, had not been implemented.

The United Front will also focus its energy on the upcoming national budget, as well as provincial and municipal budgets.

It is planning its first march when the national budget is announced on February 25, warning that further austerity measures are likely.

Demands will include a redistributive tax system instead of relying on financial markets, that at least 5% of the country’s GDP is used for building decent housing located in active economic zones, and the universal roll out of water and sanitation.

The UF is also planning to organize community assemblies on April 27, so that “political elites no longer appropriate the day to mouth off meaningless platitudes that demobilise and undermine the mass of our people”.

The assemblies will be key to laying the foundation for the UF’s “The South Africa We want Campaign” it adopted last year. This campaign will start with the front giving an alternative to President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address on February 11, a day before the president delivers his speech.

Group Labour Editor

Ronnie Kasrils is a member of the UF’s steering committee. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya