Monday, October 23, 2017

How To Steal A City - The Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay

How To Steal A City - The Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay


This is how an insider has described the last years of the ANC’s rule in Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth).

In a tell-all book to be launched in Port Elizabeth on Monday, businessman and former ANC Bay leader Crispian Olver blows the lid on the inner workings of what he said were political gangs that siphoned millions out of the metro’s coffers.

The book, titled How To Steal A City, offers a rare insider’s account into behind-the-scenes dealings by prominent personalities, some of whom had become synonymous with the city’s biggest corruption scandals.

A seasoned government bureaucrat, Olver was commissioned by then minister Pravin Gordhan in 2015 to head a clean-up intervention in the metro.

He likened what he said were the metro’s shadow operations to the state capture phenomenon unfolding nationally.

“I had been familiar with the day-to-day fiddling of the procurement process,” Olver said in an exclusive interview this week.

“What I didn’t understand was how you could capture an entire organisation and subject it under your will. The sheer extent of their determination was jaw-dropping. It was carefully thought out.” Olver refused to have extracts of the book published in the media until the launch on Monday.

The book dedicates chapters to focus areas, including the municipality’s human settlements department, the Integrated Public Transport System, the disciplinary processes held against accused officials, the ANC’s municipal election campaign and its scramble for funding.

Olver was also part of the ANC regional task team’s fundraising committee.

It is this role that placed him at the crossroads between being a corruptionbuster and a potential accomplice as the ANC grew more desperate to raise campaign funds last year.

In the book, Olver admits that he compromised his integrity.

“I don’t think I did anything illegal, but I did use my position to influence administration people and decisions,” he said. “In this book I am trying to be as honest as possible. I’m not trying to point a finger. But I hope that I am being as self-critical as I am about others.

Asked if he was concerned about possible legal challenges by those implicated in the book, Olver said: “Some may challenge it, but I’m not sure if that will be in their best interest.

“I wrote this book from recorded interviews, forensic archives and audit reports. My facts are carefully referenced.”

Olver painted a picture of a powerful faction of the ANC, which he said had over the years disintegrated based on looting patterns.

“The full scale of the housing [department] operation, for example, became ring-fenced [from the rest of the political network]. It accounted elsewhere.

“It was a far more focused operation which did not depend on capturing the politics or administration.

“It manipulated community sentiments through protests to support particular land and housing operations. It would then buy land at inflated prices for gain. I’d never seen this level of political manipulation.”

Olver said he had been threatened while still in the city.

“I had people tailing me, looking for me. On one occasion I went to a restaurant and I left earlier than I anticipated. Shortly thereafter a group of thugs arrived there looking for me. I’m still a little wary.” Asked why many of the alleged perpetrators had not been jailed, Olver said: “Whether the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] has capacity to press ahead I do not know.

“We cooperated closely with the NPA while we were there, but got very little traction. At the end of the day, the municipality had to focus on what it had to do. Yes, there is so much to be jailed for. Many people should be in prison.”

He said the metro’s story was a microcosm of what the ANC had become nationally.

“The electorate do not buy lies and propaganda. You can’t come with change a year or 18 months before an election and expect voters to roll over,” he warned.

Olver said although it was necessary, it had been difficult writing the book.

“Many of these people are my friends. This will be the last time they talk to me.”

ANC leader in the Nelson Mandela Bay council Bicks Ndoni said he was aware of the book as Olver had hinted at it to some people in the early part of the year.

“I have no knowledge of anyone trying to engage him [about it].

“I’m told he has indeed implicated individuals. I have not read the book so it’s difficult for me to make any judgment. I’ll be able to comment as soon as I go through it,” Ndoni said.

The book launch will be at the GFI Art Gallery, where former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas is expected to speak.

Sourced from: Herald Live

How To Steal A City - The Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay

The election referred to is the 2016 municipal election, in which the governing African National Congress (ANC) lost the Nelson Mandela Bay metro to the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Besides crippling divisions, our campaign had another serious problem: two months before the local election, the Nelson Mandela Bay region had no money to campaign. While the national office had sent election posters and backing boards – which our branches flatly refused to use, as they carried Jacob Zuma’s face – it did not provide any funds.

Nor did the provincial ANC. The region was on its own. The election offices in each ward had no telephones, stationery, computers or internet access. We didn’t have transport or catering for the volunteers. There was no money for a proper communications campaign. It wasn’t clear how we were meant to run an election with so little. The situation was dire.

In late May, Nceba Faku [former ANC regional chair] told me that the ANC lacked the organisation and strategy to win. I began to feel that the party had lost the will to govern, and that its continuing disarray and factionalism would scuttle the campaign.

Donny Nadison [Regional Task Team Treasurer] maintained his position that we shouldn’t channel any resources through the ANC itself, as this would empower forces hostile to Danny; also, the provincial ANC was able to pull funds from the region’s central bank account. Instead, he instructed, we should direct all resources into a new trust account he had created to finance the campaign, while keeping the RTT leaders informed.

Whenever I pressed him on the funding situation, Danny undertook to meet potential donors and repeatedly promised to raise money from businessman Patrice Motsepe. Yet, even though his own position was at stake and he was best placed to tap potential donors, he seemed extraordinarily reluctant to do so. Perhaps he was worried about compromising his integrity, or he thought that the ANC’s national office would come up with a plan. To this day, I still don’t know what he was thinking. But I was unable to bring him back into the real world.

By the end of June, I had no confidence in the ability of the ANC to organise the election. I didn’t know how we could move forward without funds. In desperation, the ANC used the councillors’ discretionary funds to register voters. Elections staff pressured councillors to use their offices, which had phones and printers, for campaign purposes. I even asked a number of senior managers in the metro to assist us by tapping their personal networks for donations. Although I was not asking them to use their position to swing deals, but rather to fundraise in their personal capacity, it was inappropriate.

This prompted Johann Mettler to issue a stern warning to all of his managers: ‘It was brought to my attention that you or your staff are being instructed to attend meetings at the head office of a political party in this city. I am formally instructing you and your staff to desist from attending such meetings. I have raised this matter with the Executive Mayor and that is also his instruction.’

He was absolutely right. The party and the metro administration had to be kept separate, but ANC activists were shocked. They were not used to working that way.

As election day approached, my sense of desperation and panic mounted. The financial situation became so bad that the ANC regional office failed to pay its utility bill, and the municipality sent officials to switch off the lights. I contacted a senior Electricity official in the metro administration to give us some latitude. When I explained the party’s financial crisis, the official told me about a renewable energy investor who wanted us to facilitate an engagement with the Minister of Energy – and who was prepared to put a large donation on the table.

I didn’t believe him. Even in light of my earlier experience with ANC fundraising, this seemed too far-fetched. I knew that getting ministerial meetings and approvals was a long and arduous process.

But we were desperate. Bicks [Ndoni, Deputy Mayor] contacted one of the minister’s advisors, and we were told she was willing to engage the investor and support the project. The deal fell into place, a bit too easily for my liking. It was unusual for government wheels to turn this fast. I made arrangements for the funds to be paid into the trust account Donny had set up. From being a flag bearer for clean governance and for a clear separation between party and government, I could not shake the feeling that I had gone over to the dark side.

When the donation was transferred, I discovered that the promised funds had been reduced by almost a fifth. This surprised me, but not nearly as much as when the electricity official offered me a facilitation fee for my troubles. He explained that the missing funds were earmarked for the advisors and officials who had facilitated the transaction. I flatly refused, and to this day have no idea what happened to that ‘fee’.

Extract sourced from: News24

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