Mayor who cancelled tenders survives hit
The mayor of Mpumalanga’s Mkhondo municipality, Vusi Motha, is still shaken after surviving a hit, presumably for his corruption-busting crusade in which he cancelled tender contracts worth more than R300 million.
Mpumalanga police are still investigating the incident where a hail of bullets rained down on Motha’s vehicle about three weeks ago.
Motha escaped unscathed after at least 21 bullets pierced his vehicle. He was driving alone from his parents’ house when he was ambushed on a road winding through forestry plantations near Piet Retief on May 13.
According to police, the road was blocked with a log. When Motha stopped his vehicle, a group of men appeared from all sides and fired shots at him randomly. Motha ran into the forest and survived.
According to the DA, Motha has been a breath of fresh air in the corruption-riddled and cash-strapped municipality after taking a difficult decision that had serious implications for several businesses that were dependent on municipal support to survive.
“For the first time, we have a mayor who is thoroughly investigating corruption and who has consulted the opposition and sought advice,” said DA councillor Rob Wilson.
Motha took over as mayor after the local government elections in August last year. Since then, municipal manager Madubula Mabuza was fired in December and chief finance officer Steven Thobela resigned a month ago after he was questioned about suspicious and inexplicable payments.
Motha stopped the controversial Sanbank Road project that Mabuza awarded to Books Projects and Future JV last year without following tender procedures.
The contract to upgrade a 3km rural road, to be used by fewer than 20 homes on a privately owned farm, would have cost the taxpayer R81.4 million – about R60 million more than it should.
The contract had been awarded to an unqualified joint venture company owned by musicians – Stephen Mapondo Sitsha (AKA Steve Mapondo) and recording artist Oscar “Oskido” Mdlongwa’s son, Bass Qhawe Mdlongwa. The venture also didn’t meet the criteria set by the Construction Industry Development Board.
Other expenditure that Motha halted included: the installation of 940 smart meters without a council resolution; R81 million in electricity money allegedly siphoned to private individuals; R100 million spent on water tanks, with no water provided to rural communities; and R21 million for the paving of a street less than 1km long.
Motha confirmed to City Press that he had shaken things up when he came to the municipality and that he was investigating and stopping the implementation of certain projects because tender procedures had been flouted.
“I’ll be giving a comprehensive report to Premier David Mabuza soon about everything that has been happening. Many things were done wrong, such as municipal infrastructure grants not being spent for their purpose and budgets from the department of energy being diverted, leaving people with no electricity,” Motha said.
“The attempt on my life comes with the job,” he said. He said he was happy about his safety after speaking to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and Mpumalanga safety and security MEC Pat Ngomana.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said the police had not made a breakthrough in this case as yet, but investigations were continuing.