Picture: CHRIS RATCLIFFE/ BLOOMBERG.
The Greater Tzaneen Municipality in Limpopo has suspended its municipal manager, Serapelo Matlala, for taking a hard-line stance against tender fraud, corruption and irregularities worth millions of rand.

According to sources, internal documents and court papers, Matlala met his fate after terminating two multi-million contracts awarded to Burgersfort-based company, Tshiamiso Trading 135 Pty Ltd, after it allegedly inflated prices halfway through the projects. 

Matlala also saved the struggling municipality about R1.3 million by cutting overtime budget from R3m to R1.7m.

The first contract, for the upgrading of the Codesa Street, was supposed to be R9 217 610. 99, but invoices submitted were for the amount of R16 960 951.

The second one, for the upgrading of the Mulati road, was supposed to be R26 824 512.00, but the company was now claiming R57 509 148.00.

Matlala terminated the two contracts as the municipality alleged misrepresentations made by the contractor, who allegedly later “doctored” prices. Matlala has filed an urgent application in the Labour Court seeking an order to set aside his suspension.

The matter will be heard on November 28.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent this week, his lawyer, Ramafalo Mahodiela of Ramafalo Attorneys, said Matlala’s suspension was unlawful.

“Our client has acted responsibly and correctly in relation to the road contracts. It was established that the contractor made misrepresentations in its tender submission which renders the tenders invalid,” said Matlala’s attorney.

Matlala’s woes started when he tried to clean up financial mismanagement at the municipality, but that did not sit well with those allegedly benefiting from corruption.

Unhappy with his hard-line stance, municipal councillors then resolved to suspend Matlala. Matlala was suspended on November 12 on allegations of misconduct.

His lawyer wrote to the council two days later, demanding his client’s immediate reinstatement, but that did not happen.

Greater Tzaneen Municipal spokesperson Neville Ndlala indicated that the council delegated Mayor Maripe Mangena to appoint an independent investigator within seven days of the date of suspension and then table a report within 30 days.

“Council has zero-tolerance on corruption, and the municipal manager and directors including all employees, are expected to abide by the ethics code which promotes professionalism and ethical behaviour,” said Ndlala.

It’s not the first time that a Limpopo municipality has been found on the wrong side of good governance.

Sunday Independent reported last week that the Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality overpaid a service provider by more than R8.4m, and later extended the contract by three years without following due process.

The cash-strapped municipality paid TT Property Consultants R11.3m instead of R2.9m according to council minutes. The company was contracted to compile valuation and supplementary rolls. The money amounted to a 300% overpayment.

Political analyst, Dr Ralph Mathekga, said that the report of the auditor-general proves that not much has happened with fruitless expenditure having grown.

“We should not be carried away. People talk about state capture while we forget that the most important pillar of government is local government. Those that are corrupt are obviously not happy to see a commitment to fight corruption,” Mathekga said.

Sunday Independent