Stories with most traction

Public Safety MMC Michael Sun with Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba at a recent festive season safety briefing.

Last year was an eventful time for the City of Johannesburg and residents were affected in many ways.

It marked a full year in office for the DA-led coalition government and saw the ANC in the main opposition benches for the very first time.

Although service delivery and infrastructure issues received a lot of attention, anti-corruption efforts have dominated Mayor Herman Mashaba’s speeches.

We look at the three stories that garnered the most attention last year.

The first MMC leaves

Valentine’s Day wasn’t a day of joy for Anthony Still, the City’s MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Development. In spite of the theme of love that was hanging over the City, Mashaba decided to remove Still from his position.

Still had said he was sacked as head of the department that oversees Pikitup, Johannesburg Water, City Power and other service delivery entities because he would not suspend City Power managing director Sicelo Xulu while investigations into allegations against him were underway.

Still maintained that he had not overstepped any legal boundaries.

Mashaba, on the other hand, said they ‘held a difference of opinion on the approach to tackling matters of investigations into alleged fraud and corruption within City Power’.

Some believed that this was a move that had possibly been long in the making. Sociologist and local government expert Dr Liela Groenewald said there was no indication that Still preferred a softer approach to corruption.

Groenewald, however, said Still was integral to the previous administration’s approach to public management. He was the executive director of Joburg Water from 2001 to 2004, and consulted widely with city utilities or entities. This meant his views on governance, and specifically insourcing of city entities might differ from those held by Mashaba, Groenewald said.

Still was soon replaced with Nico de Jager, who has headed up the department since. Still remains a member of the DA and remains seen in his seat at monthly council meetings.

Ongoing legal battle between the City and its ombudsman

After nearly seven months, the City of Johannesburg’s legal battle with its suspended ombudsman, Advocate S’du Gumede, is continuing and a new date has been set for his disciplinary hearing.

Gumede has been embroiled in a long legal battle with the City since he was suspended in May this year and again faced accusations at a hearing which started on 11 December. The hearing will, however, only continue in February next year.

His disciplinary hearing would have been held on 28 and 29 September, but the City was reportedly not ready to proceed with the case since new lawyers had to be appointed. The City removed its legal representation in the matter shortly after the Labour Court dismissed the City’s appeal of the ruling which found that the suspension was unlawful.

Gumede has tried to return to his office on two occasions but was asked to leave again by the City. In the most recent incident, the City said Gumede could not return to his office because the process of the disciplinary hearing against him was still underway.

The City’s has refrained from commenting on the matter since it had been discussed behind closed council doors.

The mayor’s legal advisor, Tony Taverna-Turisan has, however, said that all will be revealed during the hearing.

Another MMC fired, DA membership revoked

The second MMC to be removed was Sharon Peetz, who was head of the Department for Economic Development.

Peetz was fired as MMC after allegations that she falsified proof of payment documents to prove that she paid for a family member to accompany her on an official trip to Spain.

The ANC recently decided to open a case against her at a Joburg police station. However, a case of fraud had already been opened against Peetz at the Honeydew Police Station earlier this year.

The City’s Group Forensic and Investigation Services (GFIS) confirmed it opened the case along with the travel service provider. GFIS spokesperson Lucky Sindane said the City did not pay for Peetz’ relative at all.

“The service provider approached the mayor and said they had not yet received the amount paid for Peetz’ relative. The mayor asked us to investigate and we found that the documents were falsified.”

Sindane said the bank also confirmed that the documents were falsified. The investigators then recommended that the mayor dismiss Peetz, which he did on 2 August.

The alleged falsified documents were proof of payment to the service provider, not the City. Sindane said the City only paid for Peetz.

Since this incident, DA Gauteng leader John Moodey confirmed that Peetz has also been fired as a councillor and her Democratic Alliance membership was revoked.

Peetz later commented on the matter, saying, “I can categorically state that the City of Joburg did not pay one cent towards any travel to my family.”

Chantelle Fourie

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