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Fraudster gets top job in crisis-hit Madibeng

24 January 2014 - 03:16 By OLEBOGENG MOLATLHWA

Douglas Maimane pleaded guilty to helping defraud parliament, the government and South Africans of about R18-million in 2006.

Now he is the new speaker in the crisis-hit Madibeng local council.

Maimane was elected speaker on Tuesday during a special sitting of the council after the ANC ordered his predecessor, Buti Makhongela, to resign.

A ministerial task team report sank Makhongela, former mayor Poppy Magongwa and former chief whip Solly Malete over their refusal to implement anti-graft measures.

The report by former minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Richard Baloyi found, among other things, that:

  • Madibeng could not account for R15-million allocated for the purchase of tools;
  • No action had been taken following the disappearance of R270000 from municipal coffers; and
  • About R6-million for upgrading roads could not be accounted for.

The new appointees - Maimane, new mayor Matshidiso Mangoathe and new chief whip Simon Klaas - were expected to repair the municipality's tattered reputation, but Maimane's dishonourable past may put paid to those hopes.

Maimane - a former ANC MP until he resigned in 2005 at the height of investigations into the travel voucher fraud scandal known as "Travelgate"- pleaded guilty to theft in 2006, months before the trial was due to begin in November of that year.

He was fined R25000 or three years in prison and a suspended jail term of five years. He was ordered to pay the fine in 10 instalments.

Madibeng spokesman Lebogang Tsogang failed to respond to questions on the issue yesterday.

Professor Jaap de Visser, director at the Community Law Centre at the University of Western Cape and a participant in the drafting of the Municipal Systems Amendment Act, said: "Legally, it is fine for Maimane to be a councillor and to be elected to that position."

De Visser said, however, Maimane's election as speaker contradicted the ANC's claimed fight against corruption and reflected poorly on the quality of its cadres.

"As a political party, if you struggle to find people without these kinds of records, it means your pool [of cadres] is too thin," he said.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni agreed that there was "technically" nothing preventing Maimane being speaker, but the move posed a risk to the ANC.

Fikeni said there needed to be evidence that Maimane had been rehabilitated.

"Politically, there is reputational risk, especially before the elections. That person must have a clear record that can be independently verified. Any conviction must be accompanied by rehabilitation. That is key," he said.