A Limpopo State of the Province Address (Sopa) debate in Lebowakgomo this week nearly turned into a physical battle between members of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) after the red berets publicly accused Prime Minister Chupu Stan Mathabatha from doing nothing while his comrades “continued to plunder state resources”.
The fierce debate that followed Mathabatha’s Sopa turned into a shouting match after the Limpopo Road Service (RAL), a parastatal of Rijkswaterstaat, revealed to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) that documents relating to R1.1 billion to irregular spending had disappeared from the agency’s offices in Polokwane.
The EFF’s revelations were confirmed by Rodgers Monama, president of Scopa Province, who said: “In light of this, we have asked the agency to go back to the drawing board and get its house in order.”
“We instructed them to locate the documents and present them to the committee at their next appearance and to present a turnaround strategy that would ensure their transactions were value for money and track their financial expenses,” said Monama.
Speaking against corruption under his government during his Sopa, Mathabatha promised that he would win the war against corruption in Limpopo.
“When we are called upon to act against corruption, mismanagement and mismanagement, we do so without fear or favour. We do this regardless of one’s social status or standing in government or in society,” Mathabatha said to thunderous applause.
The Prime Minister further elaborated on the declassified report of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on procurement for personal protective equipment (PPE). The report, made public after it was handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa in January, has stirred tongues in Limpopo, with the public asking Mathabatha to implement the recommendations.
“We commend the SIU for the work it has done to expose corruption, mismanagement and mismanagement of public funds. I also want to commend the whistleblowers who have sounded the alarm and provided information to the SIU investigators.
“In this regard, we will work with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to support all intended prosecutions of offenders. We can further promise that no one will be shielded from liability,” Mathabatha said.
But that did not go down well with the official opposition, the EFF. Through provincial legislature leader Jossey Buthane, the party seized the opportunity to attack the ANC led by Mathabatha, declaring the party incapable of fighting corruption in Limpopo.
“What you’re about to hear is a conspiracy theory of the century. How is it possible that the [RAL] lost documents? This is unheard of and clearly the strategy is to hide information about shenanigans in RAL. But let me tell you, you can steal or burn or even hide the documents, but you will not hide the truth forever,” Buthane said during the debate.
In recent years, the RAL has been plagued by financial problems.
“The agency made R734 million irregular expenses in fiscal year 2020-21 and had a further R4 billion irregular expenses pending approval. The entity has also underspent its budget by R473 million,” the Democratic Alliance in Limpopo said in a statement.