In a statement on Friday, the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigating Unit said they had just concluded search and seizure operations at the Dihlabeng and Maluti a Phofung local municipality in the Free State.
The operation started on Wednesday in the wake of investigations in relation to alleged maladministration, fraud and corruption at the municipalities valued at about R56 million.
“Several documents which will assist in the ongoing probe were seized from different offices,” said Hawks spokesperson Captain S’fiso Nyakane.
He said no arrests were yet effected at this stage and further communication on the matter would be limited pending further investigations.
The Dihlabeng mayor had gone to Brazil this week in a move that infuriated the opposition.
The DA in Dihlabeng said on Friday it had been taken by surprise to see a video of the controversial mayor of the embattled municipality, Lindiwe Makhalema, in Brazil, planting a tree, while the municipality was facing looming scheduled blackouts due to a breach in its payment agreement with Eskom to settle its R190 million bulk electricity debt.
Makhalema became briefly famous earlier this year for claiming in an ANC Facebook group that President Cyril Ramaphosa was a sellout.
The ANC Free State provincial executive committee briefly suspended her for it. She was made to apologise publicly to the president for the comment after being found guilty by a disciplinary committee, despite initially claiming she would not and was willing to be fired for her view.
She has been back in action since mid-July.
The DA has now accused her of using the latest Brazil trip to have fun overseas, possibly at the expense of the public.
DA councillor Jafta Mokoena alleges that council speaker David Lengoabala pushed through an addendum in council seeking approval for the international trip during a previous meeting.
“It was made clear that the trip to Brazil would be funded by sponsors. However, we demanded that the sponsors first are made known and the amounts pledged to be declared prior to such approval.
“The DA is convinced that the trip to Brazil was undertaken to spite council for having successfully refused to approve a trip to Portugal and Switzerland last month,” said Mokoena.
“While the people of Dihlabeng have to contend with poor to non-existent service delivery under the failed governance of the ANC, as well as the looming scheduled electricity blackouts, Councillor Makhalema chooses to go on a holiday under the pretence of fostering bilateral ties with the Brazilian Mococa Municipality. The DA is of the strong view that any such bilateral ties should only be fostered once governance, financial management and service delivery in Dihlabeng have been corrected in line with best practice.”
He said they would demand full disclosure of who paid for the trip of the mayor, the speaker and others, during which the highlight was apparently the planting of a tree.
Makhalema is a known ally of the former premier of the Free State Ace Magashule, now the ANC’s secretary-general.