IN a show of defiance, the chief financial officer (CFO) at the City of Matlosana Local Municipality in the North West, Mercy Phetla claimed that she was more powerful than ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, who is described as the engine of the ANC.
This was hours before handing herself over to police. Phetla (38) was arrested for allegedly receiving the gift of a car worth R1.4 million.
According to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), she received a VW Amarok bakkie from GMHM Construction and Projects employees in June 2023.
This gift was allegedly in exchange for service delivery tenders she gave to the company.
Phetla was arrested on Wednesday, January 17, alongside two employees of GMHM, Matshepiso Mothelesane (39) and Nomthandazo Mokasule (49). The trio were released on R35 000 bail each.
GMHM Construction and Projects was appointed by the City of Matlosana local municipality in 2021 to supply and transport paraffin to indigent households in the rural and un-electrified areas of the municipality for three years.
Hours before Phetla handed herself to the police, she posted on her WhatsApp status, boasting about how powerful she was.
“I am even powerful than Mbalula (Mr 10%) nna ke (I am) Ms 15%,” Phetla posted on her WhatsApp status.
Asked about her utterances and what she meant, Phetla did not respond to Sunday Independent. However, in her admission that she posted, she responded to The Insight Factor reporter and asked: “Is it wrong to joke about it?”
She said: “Such a statement would be quoted out of context if not understood from the joking manner from the background it came from.”
Sources within the municipality told the Sunday Independent that after the trio were granted bail, one of them went and boasted about how the case “would disappear” as all they needed to do was raise funds to “make the case go away”.
However, Hawks spokesman Warrant Officer Amogelang Waletse told the publication that her unit had appointed the best investigators and that no amount of pressure would deter them from doing their work.
“We understand the influence and power the accused may wield, but it is important to remind the people that this is a high-profile case and we have capable investigating officers who have the best track record in executing their mandate… there is no way they will get distracted by anyone,” Waletse said.
Walatse further that the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation Unit was keeping a close eye on the matter.
Despite the charges faced by Phetla, she continued reporting for work on Thursday and yesterday (Friday).
Asked about the matter, municipal manager Lesego Seametsa said she could not comment at the moment.
Attempts to solicit a comment from municipal mayor James Ntsolela, the ANC chief whip, Khaya Ndincede, and Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs MEC Nono Maloyi, were not successful, as they did not respond by the time of the publication.
On Thursday, following the arrests, the municipality issued a statement calling for calm.
“The municipality will follow the developments with keen interest and have noted the nature of the corruption charges and the orders issued by the court to remove the implicated GMHM account responsibilities from the CFO to the municipal manager’s office.
“The City hereby wishes to assure the residents and the business community that they remain committed to the fight against corruption and the pursuit of clean municipal governance free from corruption.
“The municipality calls upon all for calmness and to exercise caution on the (circulation) of social media snippets, as some contain elements of misinformation which could create false impressions and negative public perceptions about the municipality,” read the City’s statement.
DA caucus leader in Matlosana, Johannes le Grange, welcomed the arrests and mentioned that the party would call an urgent special council meeting to “deal with the immediate suspension of the CFO from her role and that while she answers for these serious allegations of fraud and corruption before court, she is barred from accessing any municipal buildings, offices and employees”.