The Tru­man show and tell

Dogged yet again by con­tro­versy, the Beau­fort West mayor is by turns pen­sive, de­fen­sive and coun­ter­ac­cusatory in his re­sponse to be­ing fin­gered for at­tempts to so­licit elec­tion­eer­ing money from Ceta

CityPress - - News - TRU­MAN PRINCE ELAINE SWANEPOEL and SIPHO MA­SONDO news@city­press.co.za

It was his late father Ed­ward Prince, a Cen­tral Karoo rail­way worker, who in­stilled in young, bare­foot Tru­man the prin­ci­ple of hon­our. “My dad was a man of his word. ‘Your word is your hon­our,’ he would say. I was raised with that prin­ci­ple,” Prince told City Press. This week Prince, the mayor of Beau­fort West, de­fended his hon­our earnestly fol­low­ing a ten­der­preneur cor­rup­tion bomb­shell and ac­cu­sa­tions that he uses his mu­nic­i­pal­ity to col­lect elec­tion­eer­ing money for the ANC.

The furore started on Tues­day, when a let­ter Prince signed on De­cem­ber 3 last year was pub­lished on Twit­ter by Western Cape Premier He­len Zille.

The let­ter, ad­dressed to Ray­mond Cele, chair­man of the board of the Con­struc­tion Education and Train­ing Au­thor­ity, states: “We are an ANC-led mu­nic­i­pal­ity. We are, there­fore, in need of a fi­nan­cial injection for our 2016 lo­cal govern­ment elec­tion cam­paign, and there­fore will also want to see con­struc­tion com­pa­nies sym­pa­thetic and hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with the ANC to ben­e­fit...” Oa­geng Mocumi, Gabon­thone Rampa and Hanisca Kotze have never met Chris John­son, but this week he paid their tu­ition fees for the year.

John­son read about the stu­dents’ plight in a re­port in City Press last week, which was also pub­lished in sis­ter news­pa­per Rap­port.

John­son, the owner of the Three Rivers Lodge in Vereeniging, do­nated a to­tal of R150 000 to pay the tu­ition fees for the three stu­dents for the year. He is also the founder of Adopt-a-Stu­dent, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides sup­port, both fi­nan­cial and per­sonal, to needy stu­dents.

“When I read the ar­ti­cle last Sun­day, I saw th­ese were three stu­dents who were not go­ing to give up un­til they found a so­lu­tion to their prob­lem,” John­son said. “Th­ese are three stu­dents whose fam­i­lies have ex­hausted all the re­sources at their dis­posal to help them study.”

John­son put his four sons through univer­sity and said he un­der­stands what par­ents go through to let their chil­dren study. “It’s not only tu­ition fees, it’s books and clothes and other ne­ces­si­ties as well. If I had to put my chil­dren through univer­sity to­day, it would be a disas­ter.” Mocumi, who scored dis­tinc­tions in eight of his 11 first-year mod­ules of

At a press con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day, fol­low­ing the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee’s three-day lek­gotla held in Tsh­wane, ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe told jour­nal­ists the mat­ter would be probed. The day be­fore, comic pup­pet Ch­ester Miss­ing tweeted what many were think­ing: “ANC mayor brazenly giv­ing busi­ness to ANC sup­port­ers. So why does he still have a job?”

Speak­ing to City Press on Fri­day, Prince de­nied any wrong­do­ing, in­sist­ing the let­ter formed part of a broader strat­egy to trans­form Beau­fort West’s econ­omy, which he said was still dom­i­nated by a white mi­nor­ity.

“If I am go­ing to be pun­ished for talk­ing about eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, then I don’t know,” he said on the phone, adding the let­ter had been “in­ter­preted wrong­fully” and “taken out of con­text”. He said the is­sue of wrong­ful in­ter­pre­ta­tion was dis­cussed at an ANC re­gional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing in Beau­fort West at 3pm yes­ter­day.

“Look, I need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the let­ter, but there are other is­sues if you read be­tween the lines. That let­ter was def­i­nitely leaked,” he said. his BCom de­gree, owes the univer­sity R57 000. Rampa is study­ing trans­port eco­nom­ics and ob­tained 10 dis­tinc­tions. He owes R33 000.

Rap­port re­ported that Kotze, a bach­e­lor of education stu­dent at North-West Univer­sity, ob­tained two dis­tinc­tions with­out be­ing able to af­ford a sin­gle text­book.

Upon hear­ing the news that John­son would pay his debt, an elated Rampa said: “Thank God for the Good Sa­mar­i­tan. I am so thank­ful. A week ago, I didn’t know that some­thing like this could hap­pen, the sit­u­a­tion was so hope­less.

“The thought of spend­ing the en­tire aca­demic year at home was un­set­tling. I spend sleep­less nights try­ing to fig­ure out how to come out of this fix, only to find that God was lis­ten­ing to my prayers.”

Rampa said his sin­gle mother, a teacher at Ma­mon­wana Pri­mary School in Ma­didi, would not have been able to af­ford his tu­ition fees be­cause she was still look­ing af­ter his younger sib­lings. Mocumi was equally re­lieved. “I am happy, I am very happy. I can’t wait for the pay­ment to come through. I re­ally want to study and fin­ish my de­gree so that I can amount to some­thing in life.”

Kotze said: “It’s a great weight from my shoul­ders. The fact that they gave the money, and I don’t have to pay it back, helps a lot.”

Mocumi is not com­pletely out of the woods yet and still wor­ries about ac­com­mo­da­tion and food for the year. His father, who earns R9 000 a month, can­not af­ford to pay th­ese ex­penses for him. His mother is un­em­ployed.

“I am stressed. I am wor­ried about ev­ery­thing. And I am hop­ing that some­body else will come through for me.”

“If I had said, ‘Give the ten­der to the ANC’ out­right, that would have been cor­rup­tion. But there is a process that needs to be fol­lowed and I ac­knowl­edge that.”

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Prince re­mained pen­sive and philo­soph­i­cal, quot­ing Martin Luther King, Jr: “The ul­ti­mate mea­sure of a man is not where he stands in mo­ments of com­fort and con­ve­nience, but where he stands at times of chal­lenge and con­tro­versy.”

Prince (40) was one of nine chil­dren born to Ed­ward and house­wife Win­nie Prince in Rust­dene town­ship, a clus­ter of small, pas­tel homes dot­ted be­tween kop­pies and thorn trees on Beau­fort West’s parched fringes.

“I am a child of the ghet­tos,” he said. “I un­der­stand the pain and the sad­ness of the peo­ple.”

Prince’s par­ents could not af­ford shoes, so he ma­tric­u­lated bare­foot at Bas­ti­aanse Sec­ondary, a tra­di­tion­ally coloured school in the N1 truck-stop town half­way be­tween Bloem­fontein and Cape Town.

Af­ter stints col­lect­ing train tick­ets and work­ing as a teacher, Prince em­barked on a political ca­reer which soon turned tu­mul­tuous – nev­er­the­less, cul­mi­nat­ing in him land­ing the ANC may­oral seat in Beau­fort West in 2011, which he has oc­cu­pied ever since.

But Prince is prob­a­bly best known for an even big­ger con­tro­versy, which took place in 2005. He was dis­missed as Beau­fort West’s mu­nic­i­pal man­ager and ex­pelled from the ANC on charges of sex­ual mis­con­duct, aris­ing from a Spe­cial As­sign­ment tele­vi­sion ex­posé of him flirt­ing with, and try­ing to so­licit sex from, teenage girls in the town.

He ap­pealed the dis­missal and was re­in­stated at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity in 2007.

In 2010, a traf­fic of­fi­cial pulled over his BMW with the per­son­alised reg­is­tra­tion plate “1 OBAMA WP” fol­low­ing a pub­lic tip-off of reck­less driv­ing. He later ap­peared at the Laings­burg Mag­is­trates’ Court for drink-driv­ing.

Nowa­days, Prince lives in the posh Beau­fort West sub­urb of Hospi­taal­heuwel with his fi­ancée, Ther­shia Stem­met – who is em­ployed as his per­sonal as­sis­tant at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. They have two young daugh­ters. Prince also has chil­dren from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage. Fel­low lo­cal politi­cian David Maans, who grew up with Prince, points to the mayor’s “pas­sion for peo­ple” as the rea­son for his stay­ing power and men­tions how Tru­man helped pay for his younger sib­lings to study.

Education is im­por­tant to Tru­man. Last year, he com­pleted a mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Univer­sity of the Western Cape, us­ing Beau­fort West as a case study.

“The only way to run away from poverty in South Africa is to get ed­u­cated,” he says. “My dad taught me no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances you were raised in, you can be­come what you want.”

For Prince it is a case of “the more you know, the more you want to know” and he may en­rol for an­other univer­sity de­gree soon, he said.

How does he feel about his im­me­di­ate political fu­ture? “I have no fear,” he said. “I have God on my side. God knows.”

PHOTO: DEON RAATH

Chris John­son

Gabon­thone Rampa

PHO­TOS: MATHEWS LONKOKILE

Oa­geng Mocumi

TRU­MAN PRINCE

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