OUR BURNING PLANET
Keeping it in the family: Outrage after Eastern Cape municipality resolves to sell land to councillors and officials only
Residents of Elliotdale in the Mbhashe Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape are outraged about a council resolution that will see municipal-owned land in the area being sold to councillors and officials only.
Elliotdale resident Vuyani Macotha told Daily Maverick that the Mbhashe municipality’s decision to dispose of the 107 erven by selling them to councillors and officials was against the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) and the municipality’s land disposal policy.
“No means tests were done to determine whether the land is needed by the community, and the community was disadvantaged,” he said
Macotha said the MFMA is clear that no councillor or official is allowed to do business with the municipality or state.
“This constitutes a crime committed by all those who took the decision,” he said, adding that in the Constitution, everyone has a right to housing, but that right is being denied to the community of Elliotdale by the council itself.
“This is pure crime and looting of resources for the community done by people who are blowing their own trumpet,” Macotha said.
The resolution to sell 107 vacant erven in Extension 5 township in Elliotdale to interested municipal employees and councillors was taken on 25 August.
According to the council agenda seen by Daily Maverick, the minimum value of the properties is between R30,000 to R50,000 and the municipality will only accept cash payments.
Another Elliotdale resident, Vuyisa Malangeni, said the manner in which the issue has been dealt with is alarming.
“To stipulate ‘to interested employees and councillors’ only may open up room for exclusion of the people not mentioned (the general public). The nature of this matter is of public interest and therefore should have been made public and transparent, but very few people know about this,” he said.
Malangeni said Mbhashe councillors are divided on the resolution.
“The Municipal Finance Management Act doesn’t allow this. The same municipality didn’t use a resolution of this kind when they were selling similar portions of land around Dutywa, and the question is, why have they changed their tune when they come to Elliotdale?”
Malangeni said this is a ploy to prevent the people of Elliotdale from getting land around their own town, and to only allow people with deep pockets to own this land.
“Even if the people of Elliotdale were allowed to buy land in this area, they couldn’t – according to this resolution the cheapest piece of land far from town is R30,000 and the piece closest to town is R80,000 upfront… the people of Elliotdale don’t have such money in their pockets,” Malangeni said.
He said he has his lawyers on standby to take the matter to court if need be. “I am ready for any kind of victimisation, vilification and abuse.”
UDM councillor in the Mbhashe Local Municipality, Nkosinathi Ndlodaka wrote to Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC, Xolile Nqatha, asking for his intervention.
Nqatha’s spokesperson, Makhaya Komisa, confirmed that the office of the MEC had received a letter from the UDM alerting them to the resolution taken by Mbhashe municipality.
“This letter will go through internal processes of the department with the aim of resolving the matter,” he said.
Mbhashe council speaker Babalwa Majavu on Sunday denied that council took such a resolution.
“That was not a council resolution, but it was interpreted as if it was,” she said. But municipal manager Mkhululi Nako contradicted Majavu, confirming that the resolution was indeed taken during that council meeting.
“A resolution was taken by council to dispose of vacant residential land to interested members of the public, interested councillors and municipal officials. The vacant municipal residential land in Elliotdale includes (Ext 5-107 erven and Ext 06-585 erven) which are disposed for sale to interested members of the public, councillors and officials,” Nako said.
He said the land has been evaluated and was ready to be developed.
“The positive impact for the development is to promote property ownership to the previously disadvantaged. This will also restrict land invaders from invading the council land in line with the Council Land Invasion Policy,” he said.
However, the UDM’s Nkosinathi Ndlodaka insisted the resolution was for the land to be sold to councillors and officials only.
“Council added that councillors be given a period of six months to pay for the erfs. The ANC has used its majority to pass this resolution which serves their own nefarious goals. They made it possible for them and municipal officials to exclusively buy land in Elliotdale, Extension 5. This is despite the opposition’s threat to take legal action,” he said.
He added that the UDM condemns these “self-serving and corrupt acts”.
“It is naked theft of municipal property and resources in total disregard of procurement processes, the Municipal Finance Management Act, and the code of conduct for councillors that prohibit self-serving/enriching acts,” he said.
“The resolution is nothing but a typical example of self-serving behaviour and is the worst form of corruption. It falls foul of the procurement regulations and the Municipal Systems Act, as well as the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, and is prosecutable in the courts of law,” he said.
Ndlodaka said disciplinary processes needed to be pursued against the officials who orchestrated this.
“This entire situation is manifestly against the code of conduct for municipal staff members. You cannot incite mass looting of state resources and escape unpunished,” he said. DM/OBP