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Row brewing over ex-accused councillor

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ANC sources indicated that the replacement councillor, Rodney Lessing, was reluctant to relinquish his post

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A ROW is brewing at Kgatelopele Municipality in Danielskuil after an ANC councillor was apparently instructed to step down to make way for a fellow ANC councillor, who was facing criminal charges.

ANC sources indicated that the replacement councillor, Rodney Lessing, was reluctant to relinquish his post.

The charges that were brought against Paulus Mgcera related to the kidnapping and murder of Kgatelopele DA councillor Johannes Baatjies in 2016. The charges against Mgcera were withdrawn in the Northern Cape High Court last year following the death of a key witness.

His co-accused – Matthews Legodu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa, Tshame Frank Baxane, Zonizelo Richard Magawu and Richard Hasane – are, however, still in custody and are expected to reappear in court in October when the trial is due to start.

During court proceedings some of the accused indicated that they were still receiving salaries when they tried to secure private legal representation. At their last court appearance all of the accused were granted assistance from Legal Aid South Africa.

Mgcera apparently resigned in writing from his position as ANC councillor, although allegations have arisen that his signature on the resignation letter, which bears no date, was forged.

According to a letter from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), dated July 2017, Rodney Collin Lessing, as the candidate who was on top of the ANC’s party list, was declared elected to the Kgatelopele Municipality.

“Councillor Lessing replaces Paulus Mvuleni Mgcera who ceased to hold office of councillor in the municipality.”

The ANC regional secretary, David Kazi, had in July 2017 certified that Mgcera had resigned and that Lessing would replace Mgcera as an ANC proportional representative at Kgatelopele Municipality.

DA constituency head Boitumelo Babuseng queried whether any criminal charges were laid in regard to the alleged forgery of Mgcera’s resignation letter.

“There appears to be concerted political pressure to ensure that Mgcera returns to council. A vacancy must first be declared at the municipality.”

He also called for a thorough investigation into the death of the key witness that resulted in the withdrawal of charges against Mgcera.

“Top dogs issued the instructions to assassinate Baatjies. It cannot be coincidental that the key witness died under mysterious circumstances, that consequently resulted in the withdrawal of charges against Mgcera. The ANC must reveal if they are funding the accused while they are behind bars.”

Babuseng added that Kgatelopele Municipality was in disarray as it was still without a mayor following the removal of Norman Prince.

ANC provincial secretary Deshi Ngxanga said that the party had advised Mgcera to open a criminal case.

“The ANC, upon being notified of this matter, investigated the matter and are of the view that the signature of comrade Mgcera had been forged. This matter is a criminal offence. At this stage we do not know who might have forged the signature but we trust that a thorough investigation will be conducted by the police, so that we will be able to get to the bottom of this matter,” said Ngxanga.

He added that the contract of one of the accused, who had been receiving a salary from the ANC, had been terminated.

“We have been doing so because we have assumed him innocent until proven otherwise. The case is dragging on longer than expected and we can no longer be paying someone who is not performing his duties … we will soon fill the vacancy.”