Getrude Makhafola
Premium Journalist
4 minute read
3 Jun 2022
4:42 pm

WATCH: ‘We’ll burn down this place’ – Mangaung workers storm councillors’ meeting

Getrude Makhafola

Hostage taking appears to be all the rage in the Mangaung Metro, with several incidents of people being held against their will in recent weeks.

Mangaung Metro Mayor Mxolisi Siyonzana Photo: Gallo Images/Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw

A group of employees at Free State’s Mangaung Metro stormed a budget conference meeting, demanding to be paid and threatening to set the building on fire.

According to those who were part of the meeting on Thursday, Mayor Mxolisi Siyonzana didn’t stay long and groups of employees stormed in as soon as he left, holding attendees hostage.

One of the employees in the video clip is heard shouting in SeSotho “where are the councillors? They must come forward or else this place will burn down.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) Mangaung caucus leader David Masoeu who was in the meeting, said the group prevented anyone from leaving.

“We managed to get out only after they took one of the senior managers and left with him. These are the kind of things that happen in Mangaung…workers are not being paid so they storm meeting and threaten councillors.

“This was the third attempt to hold budget conference, without success…what’s happening here is a crisis,” he said.

ALSO READ: Mangaung ghost workers hold city manager hostage, force him to sign off millions in salaries

Taking hostages appears to have become all the rage in Mangaung.

Acting city manager Tebogo Motlashuping, appointed by national Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) to steer the ship at the municipality, also faced an angry group of ghost workers who demanded three-month salary payments.

They held him hostage, threatening to throw him from a 12th floor window should he not heed their demands, according to sources at the council.

He signed the payments, estimated to cost almost R27 million for the alleged kidnappers, promising them that he would formally advertise their posts.

In April, former acting city manager Mzingisi Nkungwana was forcefully removed from office and thrown out of the Bram Fischer municipal building. At the time, the municipality said Nkungwana continued to occupy the office even though his contract came to an end in March.

Meanwhile, council is yet to pass a budget after several postponements as meetings failed to reach a quorum.

On Thursday, the municipality issued a communique saying the budget vote would be tabled on Friday afternoon.

‘No community consultations on budget’

The beleaguered ANC-led council, now under the control of the national Cogta, continues to be marred by rampant corruption and poor service delivery.

Opposition parties and community organisations said they will oppose Siyonzana’s “hurried” budget on Friday.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) regional secretary Mpho Ramatlama said his party will not support the budget, saying residents do not benefit from the public funds.

“We are not looking forward to anything as the EFF because we know that whatever that is going to be passed today is not going to benefit the community of Mangaung, but only those who have close proximity with the ones in charge of the purse.

“Budgets have been passed in previous administrations, but the state of the city keeps on deteriorating, we have nothing left in this city… It has turned into a ghost Metro with ghost workers. We are not going to support this budget.”

According to Ramatlama, Motlashuping fails to implement decisions to turn around the ailing council because of having “aligning themselves with the cabal.”

“It is alleged that Mr Motlashuping has committed to the ghost workers that he is going to back pay them even though they were hired irregularly, that move is going to worsen the financial burden Mangaung is in.

“The reality is that ANC infighting and corruption are the biggest obstacle to better service delivery for the people of Mngaung,” he said.

Potso Motoko, chairperson of the Mangaung Service Delivery Forum (MSDF) that led rolling protests in the city, demanding better service delivery and a council free of corruption and fraud, said nothing has changed even after national government took over.

He said his organisation was invited to the budget sitting, but do not support it as it was hurried up and did not take residents’ views into consideration.

“They went to a few wards speedily, we told them there was no sufficient public participation. They are worried that 1 July and new financial year, is fast approaching and they could end up with no budget.”

Mangaung is being ran through poor management, he said.

“We asked them to do a head count and deal with the 160 ghost workers, that was not done. Suppliers and managers steal municipal coffers… nothing is being done.

“Tebogo Motlashuping keeps running away from us. There are no jobs, there’s no services, municipal buildings are collapsing, refuse trucks are loaded with refuse and not moving. Mangaung is further falling apart under the eye of national government.”