Tshwane mayor stops four city officials' Beijing jaunt

DA mayor Stevens Mokgalapa says the City of Tshwane has reached a mutual agreement with GladAfrica to terminate the contract. / Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe
DA mayor Stevens Mokgalapa says the City of Tshwane has reached a mutual agreement with GladAfrica to terminate the contract. / Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe
Image: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe

Tshwane municipal manager Moeketsi Mosola is set to lock horns with mayor Stevens Mokgalapa over a trip to China for city officials which was cancelled at the 11th hour.

Mokgalapa cancelled the trip just two days before four officials in his office were due to fly out to Beijing. He said the trip was not properly approved. The trip had been approved by Mosola without Mokgalapa's signature.

Mosola appears to have signed the document twice - for himself and for Mokgalapa.

Now, Mokgalapa has launched an internal probe on the matter and says he wants every cent spent on the trip to be recovered.

Mosola has had a rocky relationship with Mokgalapa's predecessor Solly Msimanga, mainly over the GladAfrica project management contract which amounted to R1.2bn out of a total infrastructure budget of R12bn over three years.

The controversial contract, which the Auditor-General found had been irregularly awarded, was cancelled by Mokgalapa after he took over in February.

When approached for comment yesterday, Mosola said he did "not sign the report on behalf of the executive mayor and without the executive mayor's knowledge".

He said "this accretion is incorrect". However, when asked if he did sign the document approving the trip as the accounting officer, Mosola referred questions to Mokgalapa's spokesperson Norman Mohale. "I said I have no further input. Norman is dealing with the matter."

Mokgalapa told Sowetan yesterday that he became aware of the trip only on Friday, March 29, when his signature was required after the city's financial department picked up an "error".

Four officials were scheduled to fly out on April 1 to attend a workshop on new buildings efficiency programme hosted by C40 Cities, an international climate leadership group. The workshop took place from April 2 to April 4 in Beijing.

Mokgalapa immediately pulled the plug on the Beijing trip despite the city's funds already having been spent on hotel and flights.

"I put the 'not approved' on it," Mokgalapa said.

Mokgalapa said he cancelled the trip to "send a strong message" in the city and "protect my reputation".

"What you have in front of you (city documents approving the trip) is the reason I cancelled the trip ... the signature approving the trip was not mine," he said.

However, Mokgalapa was yet to speak to Mosola, whose signature appears where the mayor should have signed on the document, almost two weeks later.

Mokgalapa said he was now focused on the state of the city address which takes place on Thursday and would afterwards focus on this issue.

"I have not yet engaged the city manager... but whoever we need to recoup the money from, we will," he said.

Mokgalapa added: "I have asked for a probe internally and I will take action."

Mokgalapa said he wanted to stop a culture which was prevalent in the city where officials did not follow due processes.

An insider said the incident showed exactly who was really in charge of the municipality.

"What Mosola committed here is fraud but ask yourself why is he not being charged internally or externally."

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