Abram Lebaka allegedly scored kickbacks from a contractor appointed to maintain pit toilets at Free State’s Letsemeng Local Municipality, while enjoying a flushing toilet in his own home.
Now the Public Protector has stepped in to investigate alleged maladministration and corruption against Lebaka after a whistleblower laid a complaint last year.
Insiders say Lebaka pocketed bribes allegedly paid by service provider Bene-Tech when he was mayor of Letsemeng.
He is now MMC for finance at Xhariep District Municipality, which oversees Letsemeng, Kopanong and Mohokare local municipalities.
“He is now in charge of the public purse at Xhariep while he is tainted and corrupt. This is a worrying situation,” said one source who wanted to remain anonymous.
The Citizen has seen the Public Protector’s letter sent in July to Letsemeng speaker Xolani Mthukwane, informing him about the probe and requesting assistance with documents to gather evidence.
Payments linked to contractor
One of the payments, which amounted to R10 000, landed in a bank account belonging to a fellow African National Congress (ANC) member.
“It was a few days before the ANC policy conference in Johannesburg last year. The money landed in the Capitec Bank account of another comrade.
“Lebaka then requested the comrade to transfer the money to his bank account, which he did,” said one insider.
However, the bank account holder was unsettled and he inquired from the bank as to where the funds originated from.
The account holder, whose name is known to The Citizen, produced documentation from his bank that showed money was paid from a company called Myeisha Trading by Lillian Ngole.
A search on Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) shows Ngole as the sole director of Myeisha.
Bene-Tech also lists Ngole as one of its two directors.
Publicly available Letsemeng procurement documents show Bene-Tech clinched the multi-million rand tender to maintain pit toilets while Lebaka was mayor between 2019 and 2021.
“I was actually annoyed when I realised that Lebaka used my bank account to receive fraudulent funds without asking me because he also uses the same bank.
“He provided them with my number because you can send money to Capitec Bank account holder using only a cellphone number.
“I wonder how many other people’s bank accounts he used to receive the kickbacks,” the account holder said.
Efforts to contact Ngole were unsuccessful, with phone calls and messages going unanswered. Any update will be included once recieved.
Xhariep in the dark about its MMC
Contacted for a comment, Mthukwane denied any knowledge of the alleged kickbacks and the investigation by the Public Protector.
“I have never heard of that,” he said before ending the phone call.
He then called back requesting this reporter’s full name and contact details but wouldn’t answer questions posed to him.
Lebaka did not respond to phone calls and messages.
Meanwhile, Xhariep Mayor Irene Mehlomakulu said neither her executive nor the council are aware of the probe into Lebaka’s conduct.
“We haven’t received anything formal from Letsemeng about an investigation. That is news to me.
“I think the speaker was supposed to inform us if that is the case. I will inquire from the MMC and hear what he has to say,” said Mehlomakhulu.
The decades-long stench
With no sewer lines and water stricken, Letsemeng’s Bolokanang township community in Petrusburg had had to put up with using pit latrines for many decades.
Letsemeng is one of the many municipalities in the Free State that still use the bucket system and pit toilets, despite hundreds of millions of rands in budgets over the years earmarked for better ablution facilities.
Most of them are falling apart, posing a danger to residents, especially the elderly.
Jabu Mdakane, who was born in the area, says the toilets have an extremely bad smell that leaves many sick.
Communities complain about the toilets at every IDP meeting and receive only promises, he said.
“Letsemeng officials are not interested in eradicating pit toilets because they benefit from the tenders. The smell stays on you after using it, one has to take a bath every time after using the pit latrine.
“The thousands of toilets are left for weeks and not serviced, one can’t even open windows because of the stench.”
Flushing toilet for the elite
Another resident Seipati Mothata said she got tired of taking part in the rolling protests against the lack of municipal services.
“I remember when we complained to Lebaka during a community protest to demand flushing toilets and running water.
“The man has a flushing toilet and lives among us who use pit toilets. He bragged that he had a proper toilet because he was employed and he paid for it.
“I couldn’t believe that those words came from a person who calls himself a leader. He and his family enjoy a proper toilet while we suffer,” she said.
Local Democratic Alliance leader (DA) councillor Thabo Nhlapo is adamant that nothing gets done in the ANC-led council.
“We write letters, we request feedback on tabled plans before council, but nothing happens, they just ignore you.
“Meanwhile, people suffer and because of the rampant unemployment, residents rely on the ANC politicians for jobs and any little income, who in turn use them as voting fodder,” Nhlapo said.
He alleged ANC officials protect each other and escape accountability.
“There’s a lot that the former mayor benefitted from, we are all aware of the Public Protector probe against him.
“Mthukwane also knows about the investigation, he is part of the main faction. They think they are invincible, and are arrogant in the way they run the municipality.”