Mayor won’t cut trip short for city protests

City of Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa
City of Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa
Image: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe

The capital city is on fire, but its mayor is in China, and won’t be cutting his trip short.

As Tshwane entered its third day of chaos, with striking workers blocking major streets in the CBD, mayor Stevens Mokgalapa’s office insisted that he would remain in China because his official visit to that country “has been in the pipeline for months”.

Mokgalapa ’s absence during the crisis, which was sparked by revelations that the city has hiked salaries of its top executives and managers by a whooping 18% while insisting that the rest of the staff should get only a 6% hike, has left a gapping leadership vacuum.

Some of the 64 managers the city views as deserving of the 18% hike already earn between R2m and R3.1m a year while among those who will be getting a 6% increases are employees who earn as low as R5,000 per month.

In the midst of the labour unrest that has rocked the city this week, it emerged that its out-going city manager Moeketsi Mosola – who was supposed to leave the post yesterday – has decided to stay on for another month due “to matters he is yet to resolve with the city”.

Mosola and the DA-led city decided to part ways last month after months of controversy arising from findings by the Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu that the awarding of a controversial project management contract to GladAfrica didn’t follow proper supply chain processes.

Asked why Mosola needed to extend his stay, the mayor’s spokesperson Omogolo Taunyane said: “The city will not disclose the details of his extension.”

Mosola’s continued stay in the office, especially amidst reports that The City of Tshwane has agreed to pay him out the remainder of his contract, which amounts to R7.5m, is likely to strain relations further.

Amidst all of this, Taunyane told Sowetan that Mokgalapa will not be cutting short his visit to China to resolve the conflict with striking workers belonging to the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu).

“The executive mayor has cancelled it [the trip] before to attend to urgent matters in the city. In this instance [he] couldn’t have predicted the matter unfolding in the unsavoury manner it has.”

Taunyane said acting mayor Abel Tau has “responded to the crisis in the best way he could have within the difficult circumstances of recent days”.

Samwu Gauteng provincial secretary Bafana Zungu said it was “disappointing” that Mokgalapa left the country despite having committed to the union that the matter would be resolved.

“We met him [ Mokgalapa ] on Wednesday [last week]... he agreed and committed that the matter would be resolved. Maybe he was advised otherwise and that’s why they made him leave the country,” Zungu said.

Trouble began when Samwu learnt that the employer had made workers settle for a 6.5% annual increase at the bargaining council on the grounds that the metro has no money, only for the same employer to give its executives an 18% hike in salaries.

The metro approved the unusual double digit increase for heads of department on the grounds that it was “fixing an error” that have left many full-time senior managers operating as if they were on fixed-term contracts, hence losing some of the benefits that were due to them.

“The process was implemented after an agreement was made to pay them the increase while they forfeit their benefits,” Taunyane said.

In effecting the increases last month, Taunyane confirmed that the metro was also factoring changes which were aimed at upgrading the metro from a grade 9 to a grade 10 municipality.

It meant that the higher the grade, the higher the salaries for officials – among others.

Yesterday the city held a lengthy meeting with Samwu and another union, Imatu, in a bid to find a solution

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