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Sweep more provinces with Limpopo broom

Sunday Times Editorial | 2012-01-22 00:08:28.0

Sunday Times Editorial: THE Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, has outlined just how deeply graft, mismanagement and outright theft have penetrated the Limpopo provincial administration.

He told the nation of the payment of service providers without any documentation, the lack of oversight of agencies with large budgets, the hiring of scores of unnecessary consultants and countless other variations on the theme of corruption.

Gordhan explained that the national government stepped in when it became plain that the province was bankrupt and there was a risk that civil servants would not be paid.

There can be no question that the intervention, and the threat of legal action against those who abused state resources, are justified.

Those who now wish to mount a political campaign to "free" Limpopo from national government intervention do not have a leg to stand on.

They will never convince the public, whose funds have been stolen hand over fist, that the current Limpopo administration can sort out this mess.

But there are serious questions which deserve a proper answer.

The first is why it took so long for the national government to intervene.

This newspaper - and others - have over the past several years exposed extensive corruption in the Limpopo administration. The abuse of tender procedures was rife and well documented.

Many of the instances of abuse that are now cited as evidence justifying the current intervention occurred months and years before such an intervention was deemed necessary.

By intervening only in November last year, just as the political heat was being turned up on Julius Malema - a strong political ally of Limpopo premier, Cassel Mathale - Gordhan sowed the seeds of a political conspiracy theory.

Add to this the government's more limited intervention in other provinces where serious budgetary abuses and maladministration have been revealed over many years, and you add fertiliser to those seeds.

The abuses in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, where this newspaper has revealed that a death squad hunts down and eliminates those who expose corruption, appear to be handled with far more limited interventions.

It has not gone unnoticed that more favoured provinces are political allies of President Jacob Zuma ahead of the ANC's end-of-year leadership election in Mangaung.

None of this should undermine the intervention in Limpopo, but the credibility problem would be erased if other errant administrations were brought to heel with the same zeal.

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