‘I am not in hiding’‚ says Bela-Bela mayor after his car is torched


‘I am not in hiding’‚ says Bela-Bela mayor after his car is torched

Jan Bornman | 2017-02-08 13:44:49.0

Mayor Jeremiah Ngobeni’s white VW Polo was burned during the Bela Bela protest.

Image by: SAPS

Bela-Bela mayor Jeremia Ngobeni said he was not in hiding after his car was torched by angry community members on Tuesday.

“As a leader you go through these things. I’ve been through it before‚ and I’ll get through it again‚” he said on Wednesday‚ after his white VW Polo was torched by angry community members in the Limpopo town over the price of electricity in the area.

“I am not in hiding. Why would I hide? I am in the area‚ speaking to people‚” he said‚ addressing reports that he was in hiding.

Ngobeni said he believed the attack on his car was orchestrated by a disgruntled businessman whose contract had come to an end.

“This is not a community issue. We have been meeting with the community‚ consulting them‚ and giving them updates‚” he said.

Initial reports suggested Ngobeni’s car was torched as a result of electricity rates being raised to R500‚ as well a KPMG report into corruption in the municipality being withheld‚ but he maintains that’s not the case.

Ngobeni acknowledged the existence of the report‚ which was finalised in September last year looking at four issues. He said it investigated the tenders around fleet management in the municipality‚ access control tenders‚ debt collection‚ and a security tender.

“It’s a confidential report. The report was tabled in council last year and all the councillors were able to see it‚” he said.

“If we want to take disciplinary action‚ it is the only evidence we have‚ so that is why we are not releasing it‚” the mayor said.

Ngobeni‚ who had been a council member since 2011 and became mayor in August last year‚ said one of the major challenges he had been facing was fixing problems and dealing with things approved by the previous council.

“We work on a budget from July to July‚ so everything was approved by the previous council. By law‚ I can’t change anything. That is why we have been engaging with the community‚” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday‚ Democratic Alliance member‚ Thinus Ras‚ said the community took exception to the decision to raise electricity rates to R500 as well as a KPMG report into corruption in the municipality which has not seen the light of day‚ despite being completed months ago.

“The community is very upset. There is quite a lot of chaos‚” Ras said.

Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the situation was “still volatile” in the area. “There are skirmishes between police and the protesters. Roads have been blocked. We arrested 10 people last night on charges of malicious damage to property‚ arson‚ and public violence‚” he said.

Regarding the looting of foreign-owned spaza shops‚ Mojapelo said: “We also heard those reports‚ but they were not reported to us. We are treating it as speculation since they haven’t come to open any cases‚” he said.

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