Local government politics has been particularly grubby in the past few weeks as the African National Congress (ANC) has taken over the administration of Johannesburg from the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The Tshwane Metropolitan Council has seen shenanigans of a monumental kind, with the ANC and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leading the charge to rid the council of DA mayor Stevens Mokgalapa and DA speaker Katlego Mathebe, only to have the High Court reinstate them because their terminations contravened procedure.

Mokgalapa has also been embroiled in a sex-scandal, but that seems rather quaint by the standards of what’s going on around him.

And last but not least is the motion of no confidence that finally succeeded in the Nelson Mandela Bay Council’s ousting the odious Mongameli Bobani of the United Democratic Movement (UDM).

Although an outright majority is preferable when it comes to running a government, many governments in Europe and elsewhere are run on the basis of coalitions, because a majority just cannot be attained.

Coalitions are unstable and messy to manage. The more coalition partners are needed, the more difficult the situation will be. The governing party will be expected to reward coalition members with positions, often against the demands of its own members

In 2016, the DA went into a coalition with 11 councillors from the Inkatha Freedom Party, the UDM, the Patriotic Alliance, and the Congress of the People. The DA did not go into coalition with the EFF; the EFF instead agreed to vote with the DA on an issue-by-issue basis.

Herman Mashaba, the DA’s executive mayor, resigned in October 2019. He did so shortly after Helen Zille was elected as Federal Chair of the DA. Zille was one of four candidates and she received the majority of votes in a process that was procedural, and she won convincingly.

Mashaba alleged that Zille was out to get him, and he resigned. Mashaba has also said he chose to resign following years of frustration with DA leaders over his pro-poor governance choices.

Mashaba is a combative character and it seems entirely out of character for him to resign so easily. Zille had regarded him as a friend. She would have had no individual authority to remove Mashaba.

There was nothing about her election that pointed to Mashaba and there was no “imminent move” in the DA to get rid of him.

The report compiled by the three persons appointed by former leader Mmusi Maimane to investigate the state of the DA in light of its performance in the May election did not recommend that the DA leave local government.

Mashaba has been under pressure from councillors representing residents who had become impatient about too little service delivery after three years in power. Mashaba chose to turn it into a racial issue by accusing white residents of being against the improvement of poor areas.

A major source of dissatisfaction, which led to a number of resignations by DA councillors, was Mashaba’s increasing refusal to listen to his own caucus, while being increasingly prepared to listen to the EFF.

The EFF described Mashaba as ‘a humble leader, a consultative leader who turned his back on white supremacy, and the anti-poor policies of the DA’. With praise like that, one is entitled to be suspicious of Mashaba’s motives.

Mashaba’s resignation created the vacuum that has now been filled by the election of ANC mayor Geoff Makhubo.

The election by secret ballot is not usual practice; it allowed a couple of DA councillors to vote for Makhubo. The DA’s former coalition partners supported the ANC’s mayor. The DA’s candidate was supported by 121 councillors and the 30 EFF councillors supported their candidate.        

Having the EFF as a coalition partner should be considered in the light of this example: Afrirent signed a contract to provide the City of Johannesburg with thousands of cars, bakkies and trucks. The City selected Afrirent without a competitive bid. An initial tender process was delayed repeatedly and eventually cancelled. Afrirent had also scored poorly in Joburg’s own cancelled tender.

The City eventually ‘piggybacked’ on Afrirent’s existing contract with Mogale City. The problem is that the Johannesburg contract was ten times the size of Mogale’s.

Afrirent has performed below requirements and the City is paying far more per vehicle than would have been the case with other options.

Afrirent paid kickbacks of R500 000 into a fund used by the EFF and its leader, Julius Malema. Afrirent also allegedly paid R150 000 to a separate Malema front.

And Geoff Makhubo? Makhubo served as finance MMC under former ANC mayor Parks Tau and has been linked to a controversial city contract with Regiments Capital, of Gupta infamy. According to an AmaBhungane investigation, Molelwane Consulting (Makhubo’s company) was given 10% of the contract (R30 million), which was to manage the City’s ‘sinking’ fund, a large fund used to provide for future liabilities.

Makhubo has denied the allegations and, according to ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe, was cleared by the ANC’s integrity commission. However, according to Deputy Secretary General of the ANC in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, the integrity commission is still seized with the matter.

According to Lesufi, when the contract was signed, Makhubo held no official position in the ANC or the City. But when Makhubo was elected – first as ANC regional treasurer and then MMC for finance – a serious conflict of interest arose. By 2011, Makhubo’s company was receiving 10% of a contract that he, as MMC for finance, was overseeing.

At the time, Makhubo denied any suggestion of impropriety or corruption and claimed that he had resigned from Molelwane when he was appointed as MMC in order ‘to deal with real or potential conflict of interest’.

Records from the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission show that Makhubo did not resign until October 2019. The only remaining member of the close corporation was Makhubo’s mother, who assumed formal ownership of his two-thirds share.

He continued to declare his interest in Molelwane in the City’s register of members’ interests until 2018-19, while failing to disclose that Molelwane was directly benefiting from the Regiments contract.

According to Makhubo, he has met all the ANC’s requirements to become mayor. Lesufi says that before he became mayor he was referred to the Integrity Commission and that the ANC is waiting for the process to unfold. The ANC will recall him as mayor if the Commission says it should. Lesufi said that the contract with Regiments was signed before he became a councillor and MMC of Finance.

Lesufi, who clearly doesn’t know legal processes (or doesn’t care), says Makhubo couldn’t be cleared because there was no case with the police or courts. Thus he is eligible to be a councillor. The Integrity Commission has no power to recall anyone; it can only recommend to the ANC NEC that it do so.

This more clearly indicates that the ANC learns nothing from its failures and mistakes. It remains duplicitous and dishonest in its appointments.

[Picture: Hein waschefort, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22304704]

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Rants professionally to rail against the illiberalism of everything. Broke out of 17 years in law to pursue a classical music passion by managing the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and more. Working with composer Karl Jenkins was a treat. Used to camping in the middle of nowhere. Have 2 sons who have inherited a fair amount of "rant-ability" themselves.