Police investigate fire at North West Municipality

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mafikeng - Fire and police forensic teams are investigating the cause of a blaze which broke out at the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality offices in the early hours of Friday morning.

Captain Mable Mosidi of the Mafikeng Police Station told BuaNews that the fire started shortly after 1am. 

She said a case of arson has been opened and the police are investigating the cause of the fire as well as looking for evidence that can lead them to arrest those who might have deliberately set alight the municipal building. 

According to Captain Mosidi, security guards alerted the police when they saw flames coming from the building and the emergency services responded.

"It was unfortunate that when we arrived, computers, documents and furniture's in two offices were already burnt to ashes," she said, adding that the police were still at the scene monitoring the situation. 

It has been reported that there were messages painted on the wall, which read "Away with 139 (b)" and "Black Jesus Rules".

Mafikeng, Lichtenburg and Ramotshere Moiloa (formerly Zeerust) are all towns which fall under the embattled municipality. It is one of the poorest in the country and is fraught with various service delivery challenges that have led to protests by residents in the recent weeks.

Municipal workers affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) downed tools for three months earlier this year demanding that the leadership be suspended for spending millions of rand on a soccer trip at the expense of better service delivery.

It was alleged that District Mayor, Themba Gwabeni, ordered his managers to reallocate R2.5 million from a water provision to fund a trip for a group of youngsters to a soccer academy in Brazil.

The municipality was placed under administration earlier this year by the North West Provincial Government. 

On Wednesday, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka, told a press briefing the district municipality had been sitting on over R800 million despite its service delivery challenges. 

"The municipality has R883 million in its coffers, but there is no political or executive will to let the money used for basic service delivery in its local municipalities," he said. 

The minister said it would only cost the district municipality R63 million to provide basic service delivery to its impoverished communities.