Newsroom/SA Today/

For the record

Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance
11 November 2011

The date today is 11/11/’11 and, according to some, this literally means the end of the world as we know it. There are numerous websites and even a new movie devoted to this Doomsday prophecy.

Earlier this week, some on the lunatic fringe of South African politics were making similarly apocalyptic predictions about the DA.

Jaco Mulder, cousin of the more famous Corne and Pieter (all prominent members of the family enterprise called the Freedom Front Plus) said:

“The DA and ANC are two sides of the same coin. Time will show that the DA controlled Midvaal is most probably the most corrupt municipality in South Africa.”

Mr Mulder was referring to the release of the Public Protector’s report on various allegations relating to the Midvaal municipality due for release the next day. But, as it happened, the Public Protector found no evidence of corruption in Midvaal at all.

Of course this didn’t stop the ANC from jumping on the Freedom Front’s wagon. The ANC’s press statement in response to the report referred to the “blatant corruption” of the municipality – even though the Public Protector found none.

It is actually the Freedom Plus and the ANC that are two sides of the same coin. Let me explain.

Everybody knows that most local municipalities governed by the ANC are riddled with real cronyism and corruption. Not even the Secretary General of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, denies rife corruption within the ANC. Earlier this year he said that “Corruption starts at the point where, because you are elected to an influential position in the ANC, you influence decisions for the benefit of individuals instead of society.”

What is not so widely known is the cronyism and corruption that the Freedom Front perpetrates in the places where it retains a modicum of support. And nowhere illustrates the FF+’s crony tendencies better than Midvaal itself.

There is only one FF+ councillor in Midvaal, Cornelius Gregorius Pypers. He is the person who laid the original complaint with the Public Protector.

Mr Pypers has depicted himself as a heroic whistle blower but, in reality, someone needs to blow the whistle on him. It has come to my attention that:

•    External auditors contracted by the council found that Pypers was using his gardener to front as a BEE company in the hope of winning municipal tenders  (corruption in anyone’s language).
•    The council also received an auditor’s opinion that Pypers was colluding with other vendors to fix quote prices so that they would have a better chance of winning tenders.
•    Shadow Construction – one of the companies that Pypers appeared to collude with – was fired by the council for botching an R8 million sewerage repair contract.
•    Pypers acted as a site manager on the sewerage contract for this company and is  therefore involved in the R8 million lawsuit.

Pypers’ fellow complainant is a man by the name of Kobus Hoffman. Mr Hoffman is a former DA councillor who likes to say that he was fired for “exposing” maladministration in Midvaal.

The reality is somewhat different.

Kobus Hoffman lost his seat on the Council for a simple reason. It was because he failed to pay his municipal rates bill timeously on 10 properties for 18 months. He was fired by the DA because, at that stage, his rates bill was already 90 days in arrears.

When Mr Hoffman lost his seat, he stood in the by-election it triggered as a FF+ candidate. He lost. In the 2011 election, he stood again – this time as an ANC candidate. He lost again.

Mr Hoffman’s short journey from the FF+ to the ANC is not hard to fathom – after all, these parties are two sides of the same coin.

Cornelius Pypers and Kobus Hoffman both have an axe to grind. And both have developed a taste for abusing public money – even as they accuse others of doing so. If anybody in Midvaal is corrupt, it is the two of them.

The DA is pleased that the Public Protector found no evidence of corruption on our part. But we take the findings of maladministration very seriously indeed – even if they did happen some time ago, and most of them had been corrected long before the Public Protector’s investigation started.

The allegations investigated by the Public Protector are not new to us. In fact, there have been no fewer than five investigations into the various allegations over the years – some of them initiated by the DA.

These include:

•    A forensic investigation into the ‘donated properties’ issue. The audit found that all of the properties which were donated to the council were correctly and legally transferred onto the council’s name.

•    Dorothy Mahlangu, the then MEC of Local Government, looked into the ‘palm tree’ issue, and did not take it any further. She found no cause for further action.

•    The issue of the unpaid debts from ‘prepaid electricity’ – here again the council did a forensic audit. The audit firm reported that the council did have insufficient controls in allowing such a large debt to run up, but agreed that it was not worth pursuing since the company that ran up the debt was bankrupt.

•     The SAPS were asked to investigate charges of corruption in 2008, but declined. The case is now before the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

•     In 2009, the DA’s former Provincial Leader, John Moodey, sent a team to Midvaal, headed up by a lawyer on the DA’s Federal Legal Commission. The team found, like the Public Protector, that the documentary evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that no corruption had taken place in the municipality. The Commission did recommend that steps be taken to ensure more competitiveness in the awarding of tenders for legal services. This was duly done in 2009.

It is valid to ask why, after all these interventions over so many years, the Public Protector’s findings are deemed to be something new. It is worth asking why it was deemed necessary to re-investigate a matter and reach the same findings.

I am confident that the Midvaal municipality has done, and is doing, everything it can to ensure that the mistakes that were made do not happen again. We believe it is important to acknowledge our shortcomings and then work on fixing them. That is how good governments become great governments: they learn from their mistakes and continually improve their performance.

When one looks at the performance of Midvaal compared to any ANC municipality, it is patently clear that we are doing something right. Eight clean audit reports in a row, the best quality of life in Gauteng, the most people in employment, and a 100% revenue collection rate are all indicators of a municipality that works.

Midvaal will continue striving towards the highest standards of good governance, despite the efforts of our opponents to derail us. The only thing that can stop us from achieving our goals is if the world ends tonight.