DA requests Hawks to investigate bribery charges in Matjhabeng Municipality

Issued by Dr Roy Jankielsohn MPL – Leader of the Opposition in the Free State
26 May 2021 in Press Statements

Note to Editors: Please find the attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Dr Roy Jankielsohn MPL, Leader of the Opposition in the Free State. 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has requested the Hawks to investigate charges relating to bribery against Mr Aubrey Mothombeni and possible corruption by officials in the Matjhabeng Municipality in the Free State.

The now former Sunday World Assignments Editor, Mr Mothombeni, allegedly attempted to benefit from the proceeds of unlawful activities by aiding and abetting the facilitation of criminal activities by demanding a bribe in return for the non-publication of a series of news articles about the Matjhabeng Local Municipality in the Free State.

It is alleged that at a secret meeting which took place at Dunkeld West Bowling Club restaurant, Mr Mothombeni, was recorded as explicitly and boldly demanding that municipal officials pay him R1 million in return for not publishing what in Mr Mothombeni’s view was going to be a series of news articles about alleged corruption in the Matjhabeng Local Municipality.

It is also alleged that these series of news articles were going to collapse the Matjhabeng Local Municipality in the Free State, resulting in it being placed under administration by the Free State Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

These allegations are serious as it relates to maladministration and improper conduct in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which states that if you have knowledge or ought reasonably to have known of irregular and unlawful conduct and fail to report such, that you are in fact guilty of an offence.

The media have a duty to report possible corruption without fear of favour and failure to do so could be seen as an attempt to cover up or aid possible corruption. The DA has requested the Hawks obtain possible evidence that may be in the possession of Mr Mothombeni in order to investigate the allegations of corruption in the municipality. The Matjhabeng Municipality is being targeted at the end of May for protest action due to the collapsed service delivery and dysfunctional administration.

The Matjhabeng Municipality has a history of allegations of corruption that implicated two senior ANC officials, former Mayor Mathabo Leeto and former Municipal Manager Benny Malakoane. Both of these individuals were redeployed and promoted from Matjhabeng to the positions as MECs in the Free State by former Premier Ace Magashule. These MECs were charged on more than one occasion and in each case the corruption charges were later dropped by the NPA.

The South African Press Code (of ethics) clearly requires of journalists not to “allow commercial, political, personal or other non-professional considerations to influence reporting, and avoid conflicts of interest, as well as practices that could lead readers to doubt the media’s independence and professionalism” and “not accept any benefit which may influence coverage”.

The media have an important role to play in publicizing corruption through fair, impartial, and true reporting because corruption affects service delivery. Journalists should not attempt to solicit bribes in exchange for political favours.

After having witnessed many failed projects such as the Vrede Dairy Project and the illegal Abestos Housing Contracts, in which senior ANC politicians and officials have been implicated, the DA believes that the people of the Free State deserve corruption to be rooted out of the province.

The DA commends the Sunday World Paper for taking swift disciplinary action against Mr Mothombeni, as a collective effort is required to root-out corruption in South Africa.