Draining Tshwane's swamp


Mayor Solly Msimanga wants to focus on service delivery.

"We knew there were things that we knew and then there were things that we knew we didn’t know. Now I am finding out that we didn’t know what we would never have guessed. These are the things that are coming out right now,"
Solly Msimanga,
Executive Mayor, City of Tshwane


Since August last year the City of Tshwane’s metro municipality and its DA mayor, Solly Msimanga, have decorated many pages in Noseweek, which has exposed a litany of fraud and corruption left behind by the previous regime and its ever-so greedy cohorts.

Solly Msimanga

Shortly after being sworn in, Msimanga was confronted with the so-called shoe polish scandal. Tens of thousands of small tins of Kiwi shoe polish had been ordered over the years at three times the retail price and nobody was able to say why and for whom. Also stocked up in excess in the city’s warehouses were household cleaning products like Surf and Handy Andy – purchased by the thousand in the smallest packaging available but sold to the municipality at a 100% mark-up on the wholesale price. The most shocking was the energy saving globes that Tshwane purchased at R300 each, while Makro was selling the same items for R79 each.

The household cleaning stuff was meant for elderly or indigent households needing assistance, Msimanga tells Noseweek, as he is interviewed in his office in the municipal building in Centurion. “But it does not justify the money spent, which could have been used in a more beneficial way.”

In November last year Noseweek named several vendors and officials in the city’s supply chain who were allegedly working together to defraud the municipality on a daily basis. Family members and friends of officials were supplying sundry goods ranging from nails to mini sub-stations, seemingly from the same address – without a proper office or workshop and without being registered for VAT.

Some of the perpetrators were graduates from the Tshepo 10,000 project set up by the previous administration to train 10,000 of the city’s unemployed youth in entrepreneurial skills. They were then listed as preferred suppliers of goods to the municipality.

Msimanga says the abuse of funds by the previous administration and some officials meant that young people ended up being trained as fraudsters rather than genuine entrepreneurs. Tshwane’s new leadership has put a system in place that cannot easily be bypassed, Misimanga told Noseweek.

Asked about the saga of the Pretoria City Hall restoration project (nose207) that turned into a very costly downgrade instead, Misimanga said it had been managed by his predecessor’s chief of staff Ernest Shozi. Shozi and two others were criminally charged months ago but have not yet appeared in a court. Meanwhile one of the trio still works for Tshwane, and another has since been employed by another municipality.

“We’re talking billions of rands in corruption and more cases keep on coming in,” says Msimanga.

He revealed that in one instance, more than R100 million was paid out to build a sub-station in Mamelodi but “not a single pole was planted”. In another instance, more than 5,000 government officials were found to be beneficiaries of the city’s indigent programme. Also, many ghost employees seemingly haunted the corridors – and the payroll – when the ANC administration was running the capital.

Several multi-million-rand contracts have been put on hold, including one for the supposed management of the city’s fleet of vehicles. This was after 400 vehicles were found hidden in workshops across the city. “We were renting trucks at exorbitant amounts while ours were standing there unused,” says Msimanga.

So far 15 officials have been suspended, four fired and a director in supply chain management was moved to another department.

“It’s a shame, but I am not going to spend the next five years digging, I want to focus on delivery and I want to focus on getting the job done.”

The digging is now left in the hands of the metro’s newly founded independent investigative unit. The new administration also established its own drug squad – a first in Africa for a municipality – with 76 cadets that went through training, some with the FBI. In just a few weeks they have closed down three drug manufacturing labs in the capital.

Tshwane has a current deficit of R2 billion, but Msimanga laughs about the threats to place the city under administration and says that 70% of municipalities in the country should be under administration if the criteria are what Tshwane is going through.

“If Tshwane were to be put under administration it should have been done two years ago when this PEU thing [prepaid electricity meters] came up, when the broadband contract came up, when we went in where we shouldn’t…”

Msimanga’s recent visit to Taiwan to attract investment to the city caused a huge uproar in the government and the ANC caucus in Tshwane. Some even called it an act of treason because of the government’s so-called One China policy.

The Tshwane mayor is adamant that he had permission from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) – a so-called note verbale – to go to Taipei. “DIRCO even arranged for me to use the diplomatic lounge at OR Tambo airport and I had South Africa’s representative waiting for me on arrival in Taipei. But a DIRCO spokesperson then phoned my office just before the plane departed to say if I leave, they would run a story.”

The irony is that those who were trying to score easy political points had egg on their faces: it soon emerged that several government ministers, deputy ministers and at least two ANC mayors have visited Taiwan in the recent past.

“I saw their photos there. And some of the factories confirmed they had been funding the governing party. I will reveal their names, if the government continues to press the point,” Msimanga told Noseweek.

Now see Editorial! – Ed.

Keywords: Solly Msimanga Mayor Tshwane Visit To Taipei Taiwan
Government Policy South African Department Of Intedepartment Of International Relations And Co-operation Corruption City Hall
Restoration Ernest Shozi Dirco Pretoria South Africa
Susan Puren
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