CentralSAMangaung potholes filled for Ramaphosa's visit
─── OLEBOGENG MOTSE 07:47 Mon, 18 Oct 2021
Navigating Kokozela Street in Bochabela as a motorist in Bloemfontein over the last 12 months has been akin to navigating a maze, as people avoid driving into numerous potholes in that street.
Yet on Sunday, 17 October, the situation changed as Mangaung Metro officials filled in the potholes in Kokozela Street ahead of ANC President and head of state Cyril Ramaphosa’s much-anticipated visit to the Free State capital on Monday.
His visit forms a part of the ruling party’s campaign events ahead of the November local government elections.
Dumping sites in the area were also cleared of litter by officials donning Mangaung Metro overalls.
Residents have been complaining that for months nothing had been done about the potholes in this street, yet suddenly something could be arranged at the eleventh hour for the president’s visit. Ramaphosa will start the Bloemfontein-leg of his visit with door-to-door campaigning at 09:30, and a walkabout in the area known as Malaykamp, which includes Kokozela Street.
He will then attend a community meeting in Duma Square before heading to the controversial taxi rank in the city’s business district.
The near R400 million taxi rank is Bloemfontein’s most notable white elephant. It was boycotted by taxi operators after three weeks of its unveiling in 2011. They were unhappy with the construction of the rank and resulting traffic congestion at the entrance and exit points. In February 2019, the Mangaung Metro - then led by Mayor Olly Mlamleli - signed a 30-year lease agreement with the Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association through its entity, the Free State Taxi Association for the rank.
The long-term lease was described as a first in the country by members of the taxi industry and the municipality. Former Municipal Manager, Tankiso Mea, said that the facility answered the very urgent call for socio-economic transformation. Yet over three years after the announcement of the deal, the facility remains unrenovated and unused.
In late 2018, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane released her long-awaited report on the controversial facility. In it, Mkhwebane stated that there is no evidence of maladministration on the part of Mangaung Metro regarding the construction of the facility.
The investigation into the building dates back to 2012, when Mkhwebane’s predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, was at the helm. The complaint was lodged by a Mr MI Liphoko on 30 July 2012 in which he alleged that the municipality was allocated about R400 million for the facility by the National Department of Transport, of which only R40 million had been accounted for. The complainant alleged that the municipality inflated the price of the taxi tank when it only used R40 million and pocketed the difference.
In her findings on the matter, the current Public Protector states that the Mangaung Metro not only provided evidence that the grant from the National Department of Transport - and the expenditure - was appropriated in a budget as per the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), they further provided proof that the total amount spent was close to R400-million.