Alex Japho Matlala
While many municipalities are struggling amid the advent of the Covid pandemic, a rural municipality in Limpopo is allegedly spending a fortune on mouth-watering meals and expensive accommodation at a five-star hotel for a strategic planning meeting.
The two-day meeting – held from Tuesday to Wednesday at a resort outside Polokwane – is attended by 32 councillors from Molemole local municipality, its directors and ANC officials, including the speaker, chief whip and mayor.
This is despite the fact that the municipality is allegedly faced with financial constraints that often hinder its obligation to deliver basic services.
Some of the council’s challenges, according to reports, include shortage of water, electricity connections, access bridges and road networks, litter collection and incomplete bulk projects.
A councillor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed the resort charged not less than R1 400 per person for accommodation and a meal.
“This may cost even more for officials who would need special treats, like expensive booze,” said the source.
“Other expenses include conference fee and transport to the venue. From two of our offices, Dendron and Soekmekaar, it takes about 150km and 100km respectively.
“This means about R300 000 or more would be spent for this meeting, while our communities suffer.”
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the municipality slammed the council meeting.
“This is a pure wasteful and fruitless expenditure. We call on the municipal manager to account,” said DA councillor Calvin Matjee on Tuesday.
“We harbour a belief that this meeting is being used by ANC politicians and officials to loot taxpayers’ money.
“We are left with only two weeks for the local government elections. After that, a new crop of councillors will come in. Why plan for the municipality with people who may not be there?”
In response, municipal manager Maphala Mosena branded the claims by the DA as grandstanding ahead of the local government elections.
“The planned strategic session on the 2021-2022 [Integrated Development Plan] budget analysis phase is taking place within acceptable travelling radius of the municipality, having had considered all viable options, cost effectiveness, Covid regulations, safety of all personnel, and conduciveness of the venue,” he said.
“We also want to state it categorically that it is a lie that we are a cash-strapped municipality. This is so because you can’t call a municipality which has a surplus of R90 million at the end of the financial year a broke council.”