Housing director lifts lid on deal-cutting

Brian Hayward

JOSTLING by Nelson Mandela Bay political leaders to be cut into lucrative municipal deals has been laid bare in detailed affidavits by municipal housing director Mvuleni Mapu, which are contained in the Kabuso report’s explosive annexures.

In 2007 Mapu, then municipal housing unit manager, was suspended pending an investigation into a litany of misconduct charges against him, although the charges were withdrawn and Mapu reinstated two years later when the council decided his disciplinary hearing had dragged on for too long and cost too much.

Discussing the issue yesterday, Mapu, who was speaking in his capacity as SA Communist Party chairman in the Bay, said political meddling in municipal affairs had in fact worsened since his return to office in 2009.

Not only did he have proof of the meddling, Mapu said, but he had lodged complaints about it with his superiors – housing and land executive director Korsalin Naicker as well as recently ousted municipal manager Elias Ntoba.

“Since Mike Xego [ANC regional head in 2007, when Mapu was suspended] up until today, things have gotten worse,” Mapu said.

“It is clear there is political interference with the administration, and the office of the mayor is unable to operate because of this.

“Even [former housing and land executive director] Seth [Maqetuka] could not stomach the political interference. That’s why he left [earlier this year].”

According to letters from Mapu and his lawyers to the municipality, all contained in the Kabuso report’s annexures, it was the combination of a witch-hunt to rid the administration of SACP members, and his fall-out with then ANC regional head Xego that had almost cost him his job. In an affidavit responding to the misconduct charges he was faced with, Mapu said Xego, then a director of building supplier Zikhona Bricks, had become incensed at his decision to halt a pay-out of R292-million directly from the municipality to building suppliers – bypassing the contractors in a practice which he said “constituted risks in respect of corruption”. “Obviously certain suppliers were not impressed with my views,” the affidavit reads.

“More particularly, the fourth respondent [Xego]

... . who resigned as a councillor to advance his own business interests, was not satisfied with my approach in this regard. Zikhona is involved in the [municipality’s] housing projects.

“Self-evidently, [Xego] then decided to use his political position to advance his personal business interests,” Mapu’s statement read, adding that Xego had met with housing and land portfolio councillors at ANC Bay headquarters Standard House, instructing them to “reinstate the cession as a matter of urgency”.

Shortly after the meeting, Mapu was informed of his suspension. Xego, reacting to the allegations yesterday, said he had never fallen out with Mapu and had never meddled with municipal matters. “I have never instructed anybody to favour Zikhona Bricks for any payments,” Xego said.

There had, however, been an open discussion between brick manufactures and the council to ask that the municipality pay them directly, Xego said. “I still stand by that. Contractors had not been paying [brick manufacturers] and the non-payment was holding up the development of RDP houses.

“The contractors tend to forget to pay the brick manufactures.”

Yesterday Mapu said he felt vindicated by mayor Zanoxolo Wayile and Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane’s crack-down on political meddling in municipal affairs, as communicated to the media on Wednesday, at the Kabuso report hand-over.

“We have even been told [by ANC headquarters Standard House] how to pay contractors, and from which [municipal] funds.

“The interference makes it very difficult to operate. It can only be alleviated when the politicians and officials understand their respective roles [and the meddling stops].”