Mpumalanga's Litmus Test

During a media briefing after his inaugural state of the province address last year Premier David Mabuza was asked by a journalist what will his administration do to curb corruption. Mabuza responded by revealing a series of underhanded tactics that public servants deploy to squander public funds. “Such will not be tolerated in my administration”, he promised.

On Friday Mabuza will deliver his second state of the province address. This time the whole country will be attentively listening to him. South Africa will be interested because since he took over from Thabang Makwetla (now deputy minister of defence) there has been province-wide service delivery protests. There is an alleged assassination hit list while Mbombela Stadium still has to host a test game.

If one compiles the 2009 Mabuza Report Card, it will be an understatement to say it is disappointing – it’s similar to the Mpumalanga Matric results.

Media reports of openly corrupt officials appointed to the public service haven’t helped the embattled premier much. Corrupt municipal managers being put on extended suspensions with full pay and promised golden handshakes when fired do not augur well for an administration committed to clean governance.

To add insult to injury Mpumalanga posted the lowest matric results in its history following rampant teacher strikes. One is reminded that in his past lifetime as MEC for Education Mabuza unceremoniously left the executive following a matric results scandal. That Mabuza was able to come back and be a premier is tantamount to a cat with nine lives.

However some of his supporters in the African National Congress Youth League are already saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with how he has governed so far. They point to the alleged existence of a third force led by a senior ANC politician to portray Mabuza’s administration as corrupt and incapable of curbing rising dissatisfaction. They allege that such a campaign is aimed at bringing in Mbombela Mayor Cllr Lassie Chiwayo to the premiership through the back door – the same way he became a mayor after Justice Nsibande was booted out mid-term.

Look, Lassie lost fair and square to DD and his people must wait their turn to come to power. All these strikes are orchestrated to make DD look bad”, says a youth league member who will not be named. However the same youth leaguer fails to elaborate further when asked how does he explain such a conspiracy while all the areas where there are protests are indeed void of service delivery.

When told that Bushbuckridge has too many projects which have been started and abandoned, an inflated municipal staff made up of non-core workers, it fails to supply water to vast parts of the municipality and to collect dust bins while it bills residents for such services – he fails to explain why will a strike be put at the door of a third force while the grievances will be founded.

Almost all the areas that experienced protests indeed lack service delivery while the mayors and public servants live lavish lives. It took Mabuza many weeks of vandalism and destruction of property to finally fire Thaba-Chweu mayor Cllr Clara Ndlovu. “If he indeed is concerned about service delivery why did it take him this long to act? Why is he taking this long to act in Bushbuckridge where there has been countless marches against Mayor Milton Moreme?”, his critics ask. The latest such march was on Friday, led by Kgoshi Lameck Mokoena of Mathibela Tribal Authority and other relics of the past administrations.

There probably could be a third force in the ongoing turmoil but there’s a deafening silence coming from his office. Spokesperson Mabutho Sithole hasn’t commented on allegations that some journalists have received cars to stay silent. There has been little said about allegations of money destined for rural development being squandered by service providers and public servants which is a department Mabuza led before becoming premier.

To say that the issue of a hit list is purely a police matter is gross ignorance – especially when two senior members of government have already been killed. Also especially as two department of Education employees reportedly hired bodyguards last year and haven’t been fired for such expenditure when there wasn’t even a hit list. Truth is; it is an issue for crime intelligence which seems to be trailing journalists all the time. Service delivery protests are matters for the National Intelligence Agency.

Good chess players make for excellent intelligence operatives because they can counter moves before they are executed. However such capacity seems to be dismally lacking in the NIA. And the shortcomings of the country’s intelligence agencies are laid at the door of Mabuza. It is so unfair.

If there indeed is a man at Luthuli House funding service delivery protests they must happen at areas where there is service and the NIA will nip such tendencies at the bud. If Mabuza is committed to fighting corruption the community does not only want to hear about investigations undertaken by his Integrity Unit but prosecutions and jail time.

Under Dr Matthews Phosa some politicians and public servants went to jail for committing a fraction of what many get away with today.

There are strong indications from within the Provincial Executive Council that it will be dissolved and Mabuza recalled as premier. One insider claims that such dissolution will damage Chiwayo’s chances of becoming premier through the back door. He failed to answer how that could be given that Mabuza beat Chiwayo by an odd eighty something votes at the provincial conference. As one campaigner put it, ‘those who supported Lassie are still behind him, one can’t say the same about the 80 something who voted for Mabuza. If the PEC is dissolved and conference is convened next month, it’s anybody’s guess who will win it”. And this is the real state of the province address that Mabuza must explain.