Bapo Ba Mo­gale money looted

Pu­bic pro­tec­tor’s re­port con­firms R600 mil­lion plun­dered from ru­ral com­mu­nity’s cof­fers, and names North West Depart­ment of Tra­di­tional Af­fairs and Bapo Ad­min­is­tra­tion as cul­prits, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

THE pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s re­cent re­port on the dis­ap­pear­ance of the Bapo Ba Mo­gale’s mil­lions con­firmed what many had al­leged for years: that the Bapo had been stripped of their wealth while gov­ern­ment and tra­di­tional watch­dogs looked the other way. But be­cause it was pub­lished at the same time as sev­eral oth­ers deemed more sen­sa­tional, the re­port has had lit­tle air­time.

The pub­lic pro­tec­tor found that more than R600 mil­lion is miss­ing from the cof­fers of a poor ru­ral com­mu­nity based between Brits and Rusten­burg, and named the cul­prits as the North West depart­ment of tra­di­tional af­fairs and the so-called Bapo Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

De­spite rhetoric on the need for rad­i­cal so­cio-eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, nei­ther the me­dia nor gov­ern­ment ap­pear to care about a pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment depart­ment and a legally pre­car­i­ous tra­di­tional author­ity steal­ing large amounts of money from one of the few black land­hold­ing com­mu­ni­ties in South Africa. The Bapo peo­ple’s plat­inum-rich land in Marikana, which is mined by Lon­min, has proved to be a curse and not a boon.

The re­port finds that the con­duct of the head of the depart­ment of lo­cal gov­ern­ment and tra­di­tional af­fairs in North West and the Bapo Ad­min­is­tra­tion amounts to mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and im­proper con­duct. It finds that between them they failed to ac­count for hun­dreds of mil­lions of rand.

For ex­am­ple, more than R115m was spent on a royal palace for the late Kgosi Bob Mo­gale, whose le­git­i­macy was and re­mains deeply dis­puted. It says, “as a re­sult of the ac­tions of the depart­ment and the Bapo Ad­min­is­tra­tion the com­mu­nity lost out on ad­di­tional de­cent hous­ing be­ing built, proper health­care fa­cil­i­ties, food, wa­ter and so­cial se­cu­rity, em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, more bur­saries to de­serv­ing stu­dents, in­fras­truc­ture, em­ploy­ment projects, poverty alle­vi­a­tion etc”.

One would ex­pect a vol­ume of pub­lic voices of dis­ap­proval in sup­port of a ru­ral com­mu­nity which is try­ing to as­sert its rights against cor­rup­tion and ex­ploita­tion, but none so far.

Var­i­ous com­plaints, in­clud­ing about money dis­ap­pear­ing from the com­mu­nity’s provin­cially ad­min­is­tered D-ac­count, were lodged with the pub­lic pro­tec­tor in early 2012.

How­ever, for­mer pre­mier Thandi Modise sim­ply re­fused to co-op­er­ate with for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s probe into the Bapo fi­nances. Madon­sela warned Modise of the grow­ing de­spair of the com­mu­nity in Au­gust 2013, and the con­tin­ued bleed­ing away of com­mu­nity fi­nances. Modise left of­fice in May 2014 and her suc­ces­sor Supra Mahumapelo also failed to pro­vide any fi­nan­cial records to Madon­sela un­til July 2016, leav­ing lit­tle time be­fore her term ex­pired.

Un­til 2014, most of the mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion that the re­port lists is at­trib­uted to ad­min­is­tra­tors whom the province im­posed on the com­mu­nity, one of whom paid him­self an in­voice of R719 534 from com­mu­nity funds with­out any ap­proval. The ex­traor­di­nar­ily waste­ful ac­tiv­i­ties of the ad­min­is­tra­tors were deb­ited to the com­mu­nity’s ac­count, made up largely of roy­al­ties paid for min­ing on its land.

For ex­am­ple, a se­ri­ous lack of fi­nan­cial con­trols in a poverty alle­vi­a­tion pro­gramme re­sulted in the ex­pen­di­ture of R61.8m that can­not be ac­counted for, with pend­ing al­le­ga­tions of fraud against some of the in­di­vid­u­als in­volved.

The Bapo Tra­di­tional Author­ity, in its re­sponse to the find­ing against it, said it should not be held li­able for the amounts spent by provin­cially im­posed ad­min­is­tra­tors. They raise a good point. The ad­min­is­tra­tors were im­posed and su­per­vised by the North West depart­ment of tra­di­tional af­fairs, not by the com­mu­nity.

The last ad­min­is­tra­tor left in 2014, and it is af­ter that that things got re­ally rough and in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent for those who ob­jected. The events that un­folded between 2014 and the pub­li­ca­tion of the pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s re­port are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Bapo Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the depart­ment of tra­di­tional af­fairs, un­der whose over­sight they op­er­ated.

In 2014, Bapo and Lon­min Plc con­cluded a broad-based so­cio-eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment deal in terms of which Bapo swopped fu­ture Lon­min min­ing roy­al­ties for shares in Lon­min. Those who ob­jected to the deal where thrown out. The value of Lon­min’s shares col­lapsed soon af­ter this. At the time var­i­ous com­mu­nity lead­ers were scep­ti­cal of the pro­posed deal, es­pe­cially as its terms were nei­ther ex­plained, nor made pub­lic.

The re­port de­scribes that part of the deal was that Lon­min would pay R20m a year to Bapo ba Mo­gale In­vest­ments Non­Profit Com­pany (BBMI) over a five-year pe­riod. BBMI was also granted pref­er­en­tial sta­tus to sup­ply goods and ser­vices to Lon­min worth at least R200m within 18 months of the deal. The re­port names Lehlo­honolo Nthon­tho (chief ex­ec­u­tive), Oupa Moth­ibi (chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer), Kolobe Mashala (chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer) and Di­makatso Lekhutlile (com­pany sec­re­tary). None of this money was de­posited to the D ac­count, it all went to the BBMI. The BBMI has re­fused to pro­vide fi­nan­cial state­ments to the pub­lic pro­tec­tor.

The re­port con­firms ac­tivists’ worst fears about the deal. It in­structs the pre­mier to ap­proach the Special In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit to con­duct a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether there was a prop­erly con­vened com­mu­nity res­o­lu­tion to sup­port the deal. The re­port also says the own­er­ship of BBMI and the se­lec­tion of di­rec­tors must be in­ves­ti­gated.

It fur­ther calls for a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether tra­di­tional author­ity and royal fam­ily mem­bers ben­e­fit from BBMI and whether there is a con­flict of in­ter­est between their role as tra­di­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tives and ben­e­fi­cia­ries of BBMI.

Some of the com­plainants who lodged the ini­tial com­plaint with the pub­lic pro­tec­tor are up­set about the gap between what Madon­sela briefed them about be­fore she left of­fice and what Mkhwe­bane has de­liv­ered. The re­port states it will only deal with is­sues re­lat­ing to the D ac­count, while the pre­vi­ous pub­lic pro­tec­tor had ac­tu­ally dis­cussed is­sues around land leases for min­ing on cer­tain farms, and a land au­dit. Madon­sela also promised that the var­i­ous fi­nan­cial and foren­sic au­dits con­ducted dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be made pub­lic. This has not hap­pened.

Th­ese omis­sions mean that it re­mains im­pos­si­ble for res­i­dents and ac­tivists in the com­mu­nity to hold gov­ern­ment and the Bapo Ad­min­is­tra­tion fully ac­count­able. Ac­tivists are par­tic­u­larly con­cerned that the au­dits con­ducted dur­ing the process are not in­cluded in the re­port.

The re­port also glosses over se­ri­ous on­go­ing dis­putes about tra­di­tional lead­er­ship within the Bapo royal fam­ily, which have deep­ened ten­sions within the com­mu­nity and swal­lowed large sums of Bapo funds.

By lay­ing blame on the so-called “Bapo Ad­min­is­tra­tion”, the re­port blurs the lines of re­spon­si­bil­ity between the ad­min­is­tra­tors ap­pointed by gov­ern­ment, the Bapo ba Mo­gale royal fam­ily and the tra­di­tional coun­cil or author­ity that is sup­posed to com­ply with var­i­ous statu­tory re­quire­ments. All of th­ese bod­ies seem to have con­trib­uted to the cur­rent state of Bapo af­fairs, but the re­port con­ceals this by re­fer­ring to them with one name.

By hid­ing the role of the tra­di­tional coun­cil, the re­port paves the way for an up­com­ing amend­ment to the Tra­di­tional Lead­er­ship and Gov­er­nance Frame­work Act of 2003. The 2017 Amend­ment Bill tries to give new life to tra­di­tional coun­cils that have failed to meet the stan­dards re­quired by law, which in­clude elected and women mem­ber­ship, fi­nan­cial con­trols, au­dited state­ments and reg­u­lar re­port­ing.

For the Bapo, this means that the same body that was found guilty of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion of their funds will be au­tho­rised to rep­re­sent them go­ing for­ward. If the tra­di­tional author­ity con­tin­ues to flout its le­gal du­ties, the Amend­ment Bill re­moves the le­gal con­se­quence of in­va­lid­ity.

The dis­ap­point­ing fact about the pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s re­port is that it re­lies on the same in­sti­tu­tions who are re­spon­si­ble for the wrongs com­mit­ted against Bapo to remedy those wrongs. In­stead of hold­ing the re­spon­si­ble in­sti­tu­tions di­rectly ac­count­able, the pre­mier is given the power to im­ple­ment many of the pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s find­ings. Af­ter five years of wait­ing for the re­port, the com­mu­nity re­mains pow­er­less, while the pre­mier whose of­fice col­luded in the theft of their mil­lions holds all the cards.

All th­ese bod­ies have con­trib­uted to the state of Bapo af­fairs

Con­stance Mo­gale is the na­tional co-or­di­na­tor of the Al­liance for Ru­ral Democ­racy

MISS­ING MIL­LIONS:Pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela and Kgosi Bob Ed­ward Mo­gale, chief of the Bapo Ba Mo­gale com­mu­nity, sing the na­tional an­them be­fore she pro­vided a progress re­port to the Bapo Ba Mo­gale com­mu­nity on the com­plaints they lodged with her of­fice.

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