Moss Phakoe, a councillor in the Rustenburg Local Municipality, paid dearly for unearthing corruption, fraud, nepotism and mismanagement. As an ANC councillor and unionist- eager to rid the province of corruption- he dug up evidence showing multimillion-rand fraud in the North-West province, an act seen to have been little more than signing his death warrant. On the evening of March 13th 2009, his body was found slumped over the steering wheel of his car with two bullet wounds, only two days after meeting Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka and handing over a dossier of allegations about office bearers and officials in the Bojanala District Municipality. It is believed that at the time of his murder, he had just returned to his Rustenburg home after putting up ANC posters for the national election and it is also said that nothing was stolen from him, which makes it all the more clear that this was no robbery.
Moss Phakoe’s death rightfully sparked a nationwide outcry and many vows were made about catching his killer/s. Without a doubt, in a nation so crippled by corruption, whistle-blowing has become as vital as breathing- if any progress is to be made. Corruption affects so much of our daily lives, from service delivery to the respect of the rule of law, which is why it cannot be allowed to become a norm in our country and which is why men like Moss Phakoe are so very needed. Many communities are deprived of their most basic rights, whilst others enrich themselves with state coffers meant to be used for the benefit of these very communities. With a nation buckling under corruption, the rage felt is not only understood, but very welcome too.
2011 saw a number of shocking arrests being made for the murder. This started on the 6th of August 2011, when Enoch Matshaba- a former Unkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operative who was arrested for involvement in the murder was refused bail. Friday the 23rd September 2011 saw former Rustenburg Executive Mayor Mathews Wolmarans and Amos Mataboge, a Rustenburg Councillor arrested, for their alleged involvement in the murder of Phakoe. This was followed by the arrest of Oupa Mphomane, also known as Oubanana- a well known businessman based in the North West- on Thursday 29 September 2011.
Following the arrests, civil society, together with members of the ANC, along with alliance partners who had come out with their guns blazing- seeking his murderer/s to be brought to justice picketed outside the court, during bail hearings and were extremely angered on the 6th of October 2011, when former Mayor Wolmarans was released on bail.
However, I strongly believe that those infuriated by Moss Phakoe’s murder have misplaced their focus, in the process allowing it to be used as a weapon to torpedo political opponents. What they need to do is respect the assumption of “innocent until proven guilty” and should not prejudge nor politicise the matter, but rather leave it to the competency of the courts. Their current behaviour and the accusations flying around, do nothing to build the nation’s confidence in the administration of justice, because if our leaders cannot trust the courts, how can we as civil society?
The greatest tribute that can now be paid to the deceased is to ensure that he did not die in vain, which should the corruption unearthed by him not be brought to book would be the case. What the focus should be on is uncovering:
– What happened to the dossier that was handed to Minister Sicelo Shiceka?
– What follow-up was made on the allegations made in the dossier?
– What happened to the ‘secret report’ regarding the dossier which was allegedly handed to former North West premier, Maureen Modiselle? and
– What was the outcome of the probe into Phakoe’s death and corruption in the province, which was instituted by then Premier Maureen Modiselle?
For as long as these questions go unanswered, none of us can rest easy- because it is a slap in the face of what Moss Phakoe stood for, breaking the cycle of corruption…