Mzwandile Masina. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Mzwandile Masina. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina has been accused of lying to the council about a report that led to the suspension of the municipality’s COO Lesiba Mojapelo.

Mojapelo is claiming that he has been suspended based on “lies and perjury”.

If it is found that Masina did lie to the council, he could face pressure to be removed as mayor of Ekurhuleni, the one Gauteng metro the ANC managed to hold onto after the 2016 local government elections. 

The ANC needed three seats to achieve majority status in the municipality and formed a coalition with the AIC and PAC to retain a hold on the metro.

Ekurhuleni has one of the biggest municipal budgets, with an annual budget of R48.9bn for 2019-2020 financial year, which includes an operating expenditure of R41.5bn. 

At a time when the auditor-general has found that the state of municipalities is in dire straits, Ekurhuleni was found have reflected a good financial health status. However, auditor-general Kimi Makwetu said the assessment of leadership culture and oversight responsibility remained concerning in the metro.

Masina has been accused of being a law unto himself. He famously, before the ANC’s 2017 Nasrec conference, told News24 he would not serve if President Cyril Ramaphosa won the party’s presidential race. However, he backtracked on this when Ramaphosa won.

The mayor is seen to be part of the radical economic transformation faction, and supported ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s comments about the SA Reserve Bank.

Mojapelo was suspended in May, a few days before the 2019 general elections. This was after Masina allegedly told the council he had a “latest and updated report” from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) relating to procurement irregularities and maladministration regarding the financial affairs of the municipality in 2010. 

However, there was no updated report, as confirmed by the SIU in a letter to the COO.

Masina’s office has denied that the mayor lied to the council and said there was no updated SIU report.

“The executive mayor did not lie to the council. There is only one SIU report, which was presented and tabled in council in February 2019,” Masina’s office said. “The council resolved to suspend the COO upon receipt of the evidence bundle referred to in the SIU report.”

However, Phillip de Lange, the DA leader in Ekurhuleni, confirmed to Business Day that Masina did refer to an updated report, but no-one had seen it.

“Even the letter of suspension to the COO says that the suspension is based on the latest and updated report. That is what he said to us in the council,” De Lange said. 

The DA leader is scheduled to meet Masina on Tuesday in the hopes of seeing the report.

“There is clearly infighting among them … For me there is clearly something at play, but I don’t know what,” De Lange said.

Former ANC councillor and member of the mayoral committee for infrastructure services Robert Mashego said that at the first meeting about the SIU report, it was decided that the matter was closed. However, at a second meeting just before the elections the council was told by the mayor that there was new information, which implicated the COO. 

Mashego left the Ekurhuleni council after the elections, when he was elected to represent the ANC in parliament as an MP.

He said councillors wanted to see the new report and its contents, but they did not get a copy of it. “I have not seen any other report that does implicate the COO,” Mashego said.

He said Masina told the council that there was new information. “I’m not saying he [Masina] is lying but the information we got as councillors was that there was indeed new information that implicates the COO.”

Mashego said the council took Masina’s word for it and agreed to suspend the COO.

The COO has since appeared before a disciplinary hearing, which has been postponed to Monday.