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Johannesburg - New demands by residents of Bekkersdal, in the Westonaria municipality, on Thursday will delay investigations into alleged corruption and maladministration in the area, said the co-operative governance and traditional affairs department (Cogta).
The demands were made in a meeting between the department and the Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents' Association (GWCRA), said department spokesman Motsamai Motlhaolwa.
Investigations into alleged fraud and corruption in implementing the Bekkersdal Urban Renewal Project and alleged maladministration in running the municipality were not discussed, as planned.
"These were not discussed as the GWCRA put new demands as pre-conditions to agreeing to the terms of reference," Motlhaolwa said.
Instead, the GWCRA called for the department to drop the criminal charges against its members, who were involved in public violence during a protest last year.
Since the start of the protest, 59 people have appeared in the Westonaria Magistrate's Court on various charges, including attempted murder, burglary, theft, possession of stolen goods, and public violence.
Cogta director general Vusi Madonsela said the community's request to drop charges was outside the process, and that this decision resided with the police.
The association also raised objections to the merger of the Westonaria and Randfontein Local Municipalities. However, this process was concluded by the Municipal Demarcation Board and all interested parties were given opportunity to make submissions.
"In order to move forward with the resolution of the Bekkersdal matter, we must honestly and holistically engage without pushing for things that will only impede the process," said Madonsela.
He said the department was ready to start the investigations.
"We were hoping that after today's consultation and engagement... the investigation would commence immediately," Madonsela said.
The investigation document was given to the GWCRA and it requested that Cogta consider its requests.
The meeting between the association and the department was then adjourned, pending further talks about these requests, and both parties agreed that another meeting be scheduled in the next few days.
"Whilst we are disappointed about the delay in the process, we remain committed to the process of investigating the matter and bringing finality to the matters of Bekkersdal," said Cogta Gauteng acting head Itumeleng Mokate.
The investigations came after protest action by Bekkersdal residents which escalated into violence in September, and which lasted for about six weeks.
They wanted better service delivery and the removal of the mayor.