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Five Free State officials fired for illegally selling municipal land

Communities owe Mangaung metropolitan municipality more than R6.3m for unpaid services.
Communities owe Mangaung metropolitan municipality more than R6.3m for unpaid services.
Image: Leon Swart/123rf.com

The Mangaung municipality has dismissed five municipal officials over allegations that they sold municipal land illegally.

The officials were accused of selling  municipal sites to community members.

Mangaung spokesperson Qondile Khedama confirmed that five officials were dismissed.

Khedama encouraged victims and community members to report anyone who was selling municipal land or flats to the police or municipality.

The action by the municipality comes as it intensifies its Operation Patala - which translates to "pay up" - to get communities to pay their municipal debt.

“With Respect to Operation Patala, 122 accounts have been handed over to Ramathello attorneys for collection. Community members owe Mangaung metropolitan municipality R6,328,651,” Khedama said.

He said the operation will be carried throughout the five regions of Mangaung metro, including Bloemfontein, Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo, Dewetsdorp, Wepener, Van Stadensrus and Soutpan.

“The campaign is starting in Lourierpark and Bloemside, and will later move to other areas,” he said

Khedama said the municipality will start evicting some residents who bought land or  moved into municipal flats illegally.

“Alternative accommodation is offered to people who are unemployed and can no longer afford to pay rent. But, they will be subjected to the requirements to qualify for a free informal settlement site. The sites are available in our informal settlement at Matlharantlheng in Phase 6,” Khedama said.

Last year, matric trial exams stalled as hundreds of schools in the Mangaung municipality were without water.

Thousands of pupils around Bloemfontein were without water for nearly three weeks after the metro put them on a "drip system" owing to non-payment by the Free State education department.

The struggling metro had begun taking action against government departments that have defaulted on paying rates and services.

About 132 primary and high schools are more than R75m in arrears. The majority of the schools were quintile 1 to 4 and depended mainly on the education department to pay their services.

Khedama said: “We have disconnected about 130 schools, and 16 schools reacted immediately. They’ve either paid or made arrangements, so we hope they will stick to the arrangement they’ve made with the municipality.

“The other thing that is critical is that total outstanding debts for water in the schools is more than R75m.  That tells you there is a problem with our schools,” he said.

Khedama said the metro's finance directorate would intensify the disconnection of water at business, government and residential properties to recover debt owed to the municipality.

“As part of our plan to improve the city’s financial health, we are rolling out our revenue-enhancement strategy. This has been necessitated by, among others, institutions that do not pay or honour arrangements with the municipality,” he said.