Herman Mashaba. Picture: SUPPLIED
Herman Mashaba. Picture: SUPPLIED

Former Johannesburg member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for finance Rabelani Dagada has resigned from the DA, saying he plans to sue mayor Herman Mashaba for defamation.

As finance MMC, Dagada was tasked with political oversight of the metro’s finances. His main mandate was to sort out Johannesburg’s messy billing system, which saw it losing billions in potential revenue. He was axed from the position by Mashaba in January 2018.

Mashaba cited a forensic investigation that pointed to nepotism and "undue influence" by Dagada as the main reasons for removing him from the post. Dagada, however, remained a councillor as part of the DA caucus in the city.

In a letter sent last week to James Selfe, chairman of the DA’s federal council, Dagada made it clear he was not parting with the DA on amicable terms.

Dagada — who stood against Mashaba in the race to become the DA’s Johannesburg mayoral candidate ahead of the 2017 local government elections — said he had no choice but to resign as a DA member with immediate effect.

He accused the party of being unreasonable and "hell-bent on destroying my political career".

Central to the allegations against Dagada was Seth Mukwevho, the finance department’s former head of treasury. Allegations first published in The Star newspaper were that a company linked to Mukwevho had received a two-month contract with the city due to his relationship with Dagada.

Mukwevho was alleged to have been appointed as director in the finance department because of his relationship with Dagada. Dagada has denied this.

He said the final investigation report on the allegations against him did not support claims made against him by Mashaba, including corruption, nepotism, price-fixing and victimisation of city officials. Dagada said the forensic investigation neither found nor concluded that he had influenced the appointment of Mukwevho or his company.

He said the final report made "disturbing and unfounded insinuations about perceptions towards me".

"I have thus instructed my lawyers to launch an application with the high court seeking an order reviewing and setting aside the final forensic investigation report. Moreover, at an appropriate time I will sue Cllr Mashaba for defamation and damage," Dagada wrote to Selfe.

Dagada said his resignation from the party did not amount to admitting guilt and that he did so with a clear conscience.

"I cannot continue to subject myself to a political witch-hunt. The unsubstantiated allegations relied upon to remove me from the mayoral committee were contrived in a well-calculated stratagem to terminate my political role in the City of Johannesburg and to abruptly end my political career within the DA," Dagada said.

Mashaba said he welcomed any legal action by Dagada, "given his efforts to avoid any platform in which his claims of innocence could be tested".

"I embrace open court proceedings, in such matters, as opportunities to expose the full extent of an individual’s actions. Ultimately, truth is always the defence against a case of defamation and I suspect Mr Dagada would wish to avoid this at all costs," he said.

Mashaba said Dagada had not been dismissed from the party, but decided to resign before the process of the DA’s federal legal commission or the city’s ethics committee could be finalised. He said Dagada was dismissed because the forensic case against him included findings of gross misconduct.

"If Mr Dagada believed in his public claims of innocence, his actions appear to undermine the credibility of his own confidence in his defence," Mashaba said.

DA Gauteng chairman Mike Moriarty said the DA found Dagada’s resignation "perplexing" as all disciplinary processes against him were suspended after the high court judgment that found the federal legal commission was not properly constituted. "We regret that Dr Dagada has pre-empted any internal disciplinary outcomes that would have resulted from a full and thorough investigation of the charges against him, which include the serious charge of bringing the party into disrepute," Moriarty said.