The ongoing impasse over Tshwane city manager Moeketsi Mosola and the GladAfrica controversy is a disappointing end to what looked like a promising period of coalition politics three years ago.
The battle over Mosola and his role in the GladAfrica scandal has been going on for nearly two years, and has become a touchstone for hostilities between the DA and EFF.
Pushed for, defended and ultimately overseen by Mosola, the large project management contract spanned most of the city’s capital expenditure and essentially outsourced much of the management of its infrastructure programme.
The Auditor-General, two legal opinions, and an investigation by lawfirm Bowmans all found that the appointment of GladAfrica was irregular. While there is no evidence of corruption, there are questions about why proper procedures weren’t followed.
After two attempts by former mayor Solly Msimanga to suspend Mosola from council failed without the support of either the EFF or the ANC, council agreed on February 28 to refer the matter to the Audit Performance Committee (APC). It will now decide whether or not to refer it to the Financial Disciplinary Board (FDB). The FDB is comprised of senior managers and some external people.
Mayoral spokesperson Norman Mohale told News24 that this process is what the Municipal Systems Act demands. It is also what Mosola has argued all this time: he says the GladAfrica problem is a financial misconduct issue, and can only be probed by the FDB, and not an outside investigator with a wide mandate.
Msimanga had argued that the allegations might be broader than that, hence the need for an independent investigation.
Now that the municipality has decided to go the FDB route, it is in legally safe territory with the added benefit of not having to fight Mosola on a procedural point.
News24 understands that some DA officials do not want to try to suspend Mosola for a third time, because the party does not have the numbers in council, and it cannot rely on its erstwhile cooperation partner, the EFF, for support.
Four months later, the issue still drags on.
New mayor Stevens Mokgalapa promised to sort out GladAfrica in a week when he took office in February. (Msimanga had resigned after another attempt to suspend Mosola failed in council, to run as the DA’s Gauteng premier candidate.)
If the matter reaches the FDB, which it probably will, such an investigation is not a bad thing. But only half of the FDB will be external investigators, and the others will report to Mosola. It is also not guaranteed that Mosola will be investigated at all.
While Mohale did not want to be drawn on what the terms of reference will be, News24 understands that it is an investigation into the GladAfrica contract as a whole, and Mosola is just one of many people who might be investigated.
When the DA and the EFF entered into their “cooperation agreement” in 2016, there was hope that breaking the ANC’s hegemony would bring accountability to Tshwane. The agreement was never formalised in writing – something some DA officials now regret – but the parties promised to work together to form a majority in council, in the best interests of the City.
Tshwane had been scarred by procurement scandals during the previous administration. It wasn’t long before the non-coalition would face its biggest test: the GladAfrica contract.
It should have been a slam-dunk for the DA and EFF. As soon as the allegations came to light, Mosola could have been suspended pending an independent investigation. This would have either cleared him of wrongdoing, or not, and put the issue to bed immediately.
But the EFF and ANC opposed this, ostensibly on procedural grounds. Mosola had attempts to suspend and investigate him temporarily overturned in the Labour Court last year, and the issue is still unresolved.
Relations between the parties, especially the DA and EFF, have soured considerably. There is little hope of cooperation now, and the EFF even did not want to support the DA’s budget earlier this year. (It passed with support from the ANC and the other, smaller coalition partners.)
Any hopes of holding the city manager personally responsible for this mess are, at best, premature. And the cooperation agreement between the DA and EFF looks as if it is worth less than the paper on which it should have been written.