Embattled North West Public Works and Roads HOD Moss Kgantsi is under siege from heavily armed service providers who are baying for his blood over alleged meddling in procurement processes.
According to sources and eyewitnesses who spoke anonymously, a group of contractors stormed the department’s provincial headquarters in Mahikeng on more than one occasion this week.
They demanded an audience with Kgantsi about maintenance tenders, especially grass-cutting contracts.
The aggrieved group accused him of using the province’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to hire church members, friends and politically connected contractors at the expense of deserving candidates and companies. EPWP is a government initiative to create job opportunities for the unemployed.
Sources said about 10 men arrived unannounced at the department’s headquarters on Monday (October 23). They overran security and headed straight to the first floor of the building, where Kgantsi’s office is situated.
When panicking staff told the men Kgantsi was not available to see them, the sources said, the gun-toting men started hurling insults. They banged doors and vowed to go nowhere until they saw him.
The men camped at the door of Kgantsi’s office, but later left without seeing him. It’s unclear whether or not the HOD was in the building.
After leaving without an audience with Kgantsi, the men returned on Tuesday (October 24). This time armed with chains and locks, they tried to lock Kgantsi’s office. Insiders said the men have brought the department to a standstill.
“They are so vulgar. They tell the security they have an appointment with Kgantsi. They march through to the first floor, where his office is, and bang the doors. It becomes a commotion. When staff tell them Kgantsi is in a meeting, they say they will wait for him because he is avoiding them,” said one source.
“They usually come in a group of about eight to 10 men. Not all of them are armed, but there would be one or two that you can clearly see on their waists that they are armed. On Tuesday, they came with chains and locks, saying, ‘this man, we will close his office if he doesn’t know us better’. They are well-known thugs here in Mafikeng. They say, this time, they won’t leave him. Why is it the same people benefitting all the time?”
Kgantsi and MEC Saliva Molapisi have been spotlighted following accusations of multi-million tender fraud and corruption in the North West. This includes Ndhuna Civils’ R134 million Khunotswana road tender, Khosi Vuyo Logistics’ R79 million Nelson Mandela Drive tender, and MM Industries’ R44m Mmakaunyane road tender.
Various state organs are probing the department, including the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the Hawks, and the North West Legislature. Sources said the crisis in the department has strained relations between Molapisi and Kgantsi, with the MEC blaming the HOD for the embarrassing developments and endless investigations by law enforcement.
The North West Public Works and Roads confirmed that gun-toting men visited the provincial offices and threatened Kgantsi. In a statement released on Tuesday (October 24), Molapisi’s spokesperson, Lerato Gambu, said the department is “extremely concerned about acts of violent intimidation and threats against officials”.
“The continued threats are meted by individuals demanding business opportunities in general and participation on the grass-cutting project in particular,” Gambu said.
In the same statement, Kgantsi said he does not take the threats against him lightly and has since informed the police.
“The threats cannot be taken lightly as perpetrators are allegedly branding firearms and insult officials insisting to hold meetings without scheduled appointments”.
“It has been reported that a group of men arrived at the Provincial Offices demanding to see some officials. The men carrying chains and locks with the view to shut down the office, demand subcontracting opportunities on the grass-cutting project; which is not at the discretion of the Department. This has had a negative impact on operations as access for employees and members of the community is prohibited.”
“To this end, the Department has informed the relevant authorities and the law will take its course in this regard..” said Kgantsi
James Gadinabokao, a whistleblower and president of lobby group GATVOL, said the storming of the department by the contractors is a sign that North West residents have had enough of Kgantsi’s alleged tender fraud and corruption.
He said GATVOL is unsurprised that the HOD is “now under siege” over the maintenance tender, because “he is not appointing people fairly and is not following due processes”.
“People who are aggrieved are up in arms and hunting him [Kgantsi] down. Every morning, they go to the department of public works wielding firearms and wanting him. They even went to the extent of saying they are going to burn his church in Mmabatho, in Mafikeng. Now you can see the corrupt activities we have been talking about, that the HOD of public works is corrupt,” Gadinabokao said.
“Now he is being attacked by the contractors in Mahikeng, in particular the grass cutters. We are saying we still appeal to our provincial government. In this regard, [for] the Office of the Premier to suspend this guy so that we must get deeper into what he has done in the Department of Public Works,” he added.