Gauteng local government and housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi was booed and heckled in Khutsong for claiming that Merafong was one of the leading municipalities in the province.
Mmemezi, speaking at the Office of the Public Protector’s Youth Month commemoration event, sparked outrage when he said Merafong was “one of the municipalities in Gauteng making us proud”.
“We know as Gauteng that many residents here are offered basic services like water, refuse removal and electricity,” he said on Tuesday.
Taking exception to this, a large part of the crowd rose and started screaming and booing, making it difficult for him to continue. He had also been booed when he was introduced and took to the podium.
Mmemezi got another chance to speak after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela stepped in and urged the crowd to listen to him, even if they disagreed with some of the things he was saying.
Mmemezi, who has recently been embroiled in allegations of abusing his government-issued credit card on shopping sprees and hotel stays, spent time at the event listening to Madonsela talk tough against fraud and corruption in government.
In her speech, Madonsela said “corruption takes away opportunities for improving our lives, and this is when we inflate tenders and deliver shoddy work which costs the government a lot more to fix. Corruption pushes away genuine young business people.”
She told the packed Khutsong Community Hall that a concern had been brought to her office’s attention that businesses in Merafong were overlooking local people in terms of employment, making a special reference to mines.
Madonsela said other community issues ranged from high employment to the unfair issuing of government contracts.
“I can only conclude that this community has not yet experienced good quality of life promised by our constitution. Now what do you do as youth to ensure good governance?” she asked.
“Do you throw stones like the youth of 1976 and destroy infrastructure? You are not a Stone Age generation but an information generation, and you can use that to make sure that government operates with integrity, and without fraud and corruption.”
She urged the youth to refrain from going on violent protests during which property was damaged, and to take advantage of institutions like her office in an attempt to get their grievances addressed.
The community was given a chance to raise issues with Madonsela and other officials, which led to a heated session.
Hlompo Molote complained about lack of youth empowerment and resources, and urged the National Youth Development Agency and its CEO, Steven Ngobeni, who was present, to make itself more visible and accessible.
Shadrack Letshwenyo complained about brutality, fraud and corruption in the local police.
Otsile Mooketsi made allegations of nepotism in the Merafong municipality, saying relatives of senior officials from outside the municipality were employed over locals.
“Extension 5 people were also still struggling to get a bridge to enable them to cross the railway line from Khutsong,” she said.