Is this really the liberation struggle that many of us fought for?

AS someone from Limpopo, I have no sympathy for those who argue that Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale is a victim of political machinations by those who are not happy that he wants Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to replace President Jacob Zuma at the ANC national conference in December.

The argument is that the recent takeover by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan of the province's finances in various departments is driven by Zuma's desire to serve a second term as both the ANC and the country's president.

For me the whole snafu is symptomatic of how the ANC is failing to deal with its leadership contest, to ensure that only the best candidates are put into office.

My concern, however, is about how the beautiful province - once known as the Eden of Africa - has seemingly turned into a paradise for swashbuckling looters who cry racism and political victimisation at the drop of a hat whenever their heinous deeds are questioned.

Gordhan announced last week that the province is practically bankrupt because it is R2-billion in the red. A situation created by a litany of financial mismanagement of government funds. There are also reports of politically connected individuals illegally raking in millions through government tenders.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the South African Revenue Service are investigating multimillion-rand government tenders allegedly irregularly connected to individuals including the ANC Youth League's Julius Malema.

Many years ago - when the likes of the former chief ministers Cedric Phatudi, of Lebowa, and Patrick Mphephu, of Venda, were in charge of the province under the apartheid bantustan policy - there were reports of how these surrogate leaders lived large at the expense of the ever over-burdened taxpayers.

A land surveyor friend of mine told us a story of how one night he stumbled on a campfire in the bushes of the then Bushbuckridge, where Phatudi and his cronies were having a "bundu-bash" with nubile lasses. Meat and alcohol were in abundance.

Realising that they were caught with their pants down, the revellers invited my friend to join in the fun. He was obviously sworn to secrecy about the incident.

Mphephu is remembered for allegedly building a tarred road to his concubine's isolated village.

The situation in the province has morphed into something else from the days of the homeland leaders and their follies.

We now have tenderpreneurs who are flush with cash. They live in exclusive suburbs like Sterpark - colloquially known as "Tenderpark" because of the mansions built by tenderpreneurs in the area.

There are reports of how the Limpopo economy has become a "cash economy" where the moneyed use only cash to buy whatever they need.

We also hear stories of how the "new-money" millionaires carry bags stuffed with money to restaurants where Moét Chandon and single malt whiskeys flow in abundance.

There are also movie-like stories of how those who are looting the state coffers scam one another as part of the new power play.

We hear how one tenderpreneur was robbed of R1-million a few minutes after he had collected it from someone as payment for successfully facilitating a government tender. When he pleaded with the robbers not to take the whole loot, he was told he was lucky because they are not demanding the millions stashed in his house.

We also hear about how a senior politician set millions of rands on fire after he was informed that police are on their way to raid his homestead.

He had apparently just received the money for his role in another multimillion-rand government underhand deal.

Meanwhile, service delivery in the province has reached the pits. We hear hospitals have no food, forcing families to provide food for relatives admitted to these institutions.

These are the issues that are of major concern to the ordinary people of Limpopo and not whether Mathale is a victim of a campaign to destroy his political career.

It is when they hear all these reports about the looting and abuse of state funds and seeing how service delivery has been undermined in the province that people ask: "Is this really the liberation that we fought for?"