Molefe mired in spat with Plett's DA council over dodgy tender

19 February 2012 - 02:31 By ROB ROSE
INDEPENDENCE: Brian Molefe says his neutrality has been impugned
INDEPENDENCE: Brian Molefe says his neutrality has been impugned

TRANSNET CEO Brian Molefe is embroiled in a dispute over a controversial IT tender issued by the Plettenberg Bay municipality.

This comes after the Democratic Alliance council in the municipality, Bitou, tried to axe him as chairman of its audit committee this week.

It is the latest in a political battle within the municipality between the DA and the ANC, which lost power last May for the first time in 16 years.

Two weeks ago, the Sunday Times exposed how the council's mayor, Memory Booysen, gave Dimension Data, which is chaired by Jeremy Ord, a R4.3-million contract to manage the town's IT systems without a tender.

Early this week, Molefe asked Bitou's internal auditors to probe the deal.

But on Thursday a "special council meeting" was scheduled to be held with an agenda to "remove Brian Molefe as member of the audit committee".

That same day a furious Molefe obtained an interdict from the High Court in Cape Town preventing the council from axing him.

In his court papers, Molefe calls the effort to remove him as chairman "illegal" and prompted by "malice and bad faith".

Molefe took the unpaid position in 2009 as he is one of a number of wealthy South Africans - including Ord - with a holiday house in Plett.

One of the reasons Booysen gave for wanting to axe Molefe was that he testified for Bitou's former municipal manager, Lonwabo Ngoqo, in a disciplinary hearing last year.

The mayor accused Molefe of saying things that were "not true" such as that Bitou has a surplus of more than R400-million.

Booysen this week said: "In my opinion as mayor, if one looks at the fact that our finances have been run into the ground ... never during the downward spiral did [Molefe's] audit committee warn the council."

Molefe, however, disputes Booysen's claim that the council inherited a "bankrupt" municipality from the ANC.

Bitou's financial statements for the year to June show it had total assets of R682.2-million, with most of this made up of property. These assets exceeded its liabilities of R260.4-million by a healthy R421-million. In all, Bitou collected R223-million from ratepayers last year and had R17.7-million in cash at the year-end.

Booysen has been trying to remove Molefe for months, having first written to him on October 25 last year saying "your testimony [in the Ngoqo case] was not objective [and because] your independence is no longer above reproach, I intend to ... request your removal from the audit committee".

Molefe rejected this and pointed to Judge Piet Combrink's findings in Ngoqo's hearing in which he said Molefe "came across as an honest and reliable witness who did not attempt to assist the manager at any cost".

The Transnet boss says he is now fighting his removal because his independence has been challenged.

"I hold senior positions to which my integrity and independence matter," he said.

Booysen confirmed on Friday that, because of the interdict, the council withdrew the resolution to axe Molefe and lawyers were now looking into the matter.

The political atmosphere in Plett has become increasingly toxic and this month it spilt over into riots, with groups from the Qolweni township barricading the N2 highway through the Garden Route.

Booysen blames this on an "ANC plot" to destabilise the municipality and regain towns it lost in the Western Cape.

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