Bapo Ba Mogale robbed blind
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Pretoria - The tribal community of Bapo Ba Mogale in the North West is rich on paper, but poor in reality.
And its resources - more than R600 million in mining rights royalties - have been pillaged without any accountability.
These are the damning preliminary findings of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation into allegations of maladministration of the tribe’s royalties since 1994.
Madonsela delivered the preliminary findings at a packed community hall in Bapong outside Brits on Friday where the divided community gasped as she mentioned the monies spent.
The community, like many others across the country living on mining land, is located along the abundantly wealthy platinum belt, but the only thing they have to show for it is a complete loss of hope.
Madonsela found that their account, where more R600m of royalties was held, known as D account - one of 96 such accounts in the province - was ransacked and left empty.
“What it means is that all the money you earned has been spent,” she said to the astonishment of the community.
“The paymaster who was controlling the account was the North West government.
“We established there was no trust or trust account nor oversight over this money.”
Madonsela found the largest amount - R80m - was spent on building tribal chief Emius Mogale luxurious palace locals now likened to Nkandla, President Jacob Zuma's controversial homestead.
She said that when her investigation began, the cost to the chief’s palace stood at R50m and this spiralled to R80m despite her officer ordering the tribal authority to stop its spending spree.
A rather nervous-looking Chief Mogale said those who misused the community’s money must be made to pay it back.
Madonsela is now taking aim at mining companies involved in the Bapo land to see if the cash they paid to the community as royalties since 1994 was in line with what should have been earned.
She will also probe how money funnelled by mining companies to the 95 other such accounts in the province was used and to whose benefit. Madonsela is also looking at what role the provincial political leaders played and who should have done what to stop the rot.
“We cannot avoid that [the role of political leadership] and also we have been asking for these documents from political leaders, most of whom disappeared after we asked those questions,” she warned.
“Had we found the information we have earlier, some of the expenditure could have been stopped. Our investigation dragged because we could not get information.”
However, as Madonsela delivered her preliminary findings, divisions plaguing the community came to the fore as groups jeered at and disrupted each other.
Some in the community vowed to boycott next week’s elections over a fresh fight with their tribal council on the latest allegations of money being misappropriated.
Two weeks ago the community’s frustrations with a lack of development and poverty spilled into the streets when they took to a local radio station to air allegations of mining funds meant to benefit them being misused.
They alleged that since two years ago, London-listed platinum mine Lonmin poured millions of rand into the tribal council for local economic development, but the community was yet to see the benefits.
Madonsela said she did not want her report to fuel further tensions.
“There is no point in being rich on paper but poor in real life. One of the pillars that will help this community to prosper is the whole question of unity,” she said.
“Our [final] report will include advice and an ideal governance model. We have to look at the model they have now with the new investment structure and advise them whether that is best way forward in managing the community affairs.”
Madonsela has committed to completing the report by the time her term ends in October.