mayor in R45m probe

OR TAMBO district municipal mayor Zoleka Chapha-Langa is in hot water after allegations that she squandered council funds by purchasing "unproductive" farms valued at R45million without the municipality's approval.

Chapa-Langa, who is also ANC national executive committee member and Salga chairperson in the province, is also accused of appointing her husband, Ndumiso Langa, who heads the municipality's agricultural development agency, Ntinga, to manage the farms.

Opposition parties are now calling on the ANC to act against her.

The farms are said to be unproductive and are riddled with serious problems such as non-payment of employees since the council took over control last year.

OR Tambo is the biggest yet poorest municipality in Eastern Cape. The council includes King Sabata Dalindyebo, Ingquza Hill, Mhlontlo, Port St Johns, Mbizana, Nyandeni and Ntabankulu.

The farms were bought with the aim of alleviating poverty in the municipality by improving agricultural standards.

During former president Thabo Mbeki's era, the municipality was listed under Project Consolidate - a programme by the national government meant to boost municipalities that did not have the capacity to deliver on their mandate.

Opposition parties are up in arms about the latest "squandering" in the province. United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa said he was not surprised "because it has become a normal routine by the ANC to waste public funds".

"The responsibility is on President Jacob Zuma as head of government to show us that he is indeed serious about fighting corruption," Holomisa said.

He also pointed out that the "scandal" was highlighted sometime last year "but was swept under the carpet".

"It is good that it has been brought up once more, and Mr Zuma and his cabinet must respond," he said.

Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament Athol Trollip said it was quite irregular from the outset to purchase land from another province (KwaZulu-Natal).

"She further used R20million to buy equipment for the farms that are not productive, and then hired her husband to manage them," said Trollip, who believes Chapa- Langa should be charged for nepotism and allowing farms to run at a loss while millions were invested in them.

"I wonder why the farms have become non-productive because they were the most profitable farms around Kokstad," Trollip said.

ANC s Eastern Cape spokesperson, Mlibo Qhoboshiyane said he was not aware of any law that prohibits a municipality from purchasing property from another province. \

"But we are still waiting for the mayor's report on the allegations," Qhoboshiyane said.

Our sister newspaper, Sunday Times, quoted municipal manager Bruce Kannemeyer as confirming that the R45million was not budgeted for and that no procurement processes were followed as the farms were bought at auction.

The council's speaker, Nandipha Madalane, however, insisted that she knew about the purchase and that it was approved by the council. But she refused to give details .

Chapha-Langa could not be reached for comment.