Radio ‘sabotage’ row gets ugly in Joburg mayor’s office
Mashaba trades snipes with communications chief over 'failure' to have State of the City Address aired live
A heated disagreement between Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba and the city’s head of communications and marketing has led to a hasty departure of the latter and threats of court action.
In a series of terse e-mail exchanges seen by Times Select, Mashaba accuses Makhudu Sefara, who resigned two weeks ago, and officials in his department of trying to sabotage the administration for an alleged failure to secure paid advertising space on Joburg-based community radio stations to carry the State of the City Address live.
In the e-mails Mashaba complains that he was contacted by two community radio stations who asked why the city had not contracted them to broadcast the address.“Two major concerns I need to express. We have denied our communities a right to listen to the address. We have failed to support our SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises). I take this failure to be a deliberate action of officials to sabotage our administration, or total lack of leadership of the department or don’t-care attitude,” he wrote.
In his response, Sefara pointed out that the radio stations could not be contracted because they were not compliant with the city’s procurement processes, before telling Mashaba to butt out of procurement matters.
“So, I am at a loss of words for what the mayor Mashaba means when he says we ‘failed to support SMMEs’ because we more than did support them.“My view (at great risk to myself, but necessary nonetheless) is that politicians – from the legislature to the mayor’s office and including the mayor – must stop involving themselves in the procurement of any media. This is illegal,” Sefara retorted.
He further said he raised the issue of non-compliant community radio stations with Mashaba and city manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni as early as November 2017. In that e-mail he had indicated that for the radio stations to be contracted by the city they had to be registered on the central supplier database, be tax-compliant and, importantly, be up to date with their municipal rates.
Sefara said that when he raised this with Mashaba and Lukhwareni he was told by the mayor to proceed nonetheless, which he found unacceptable since it would amount to illegality.
“It is even more untenable coming from a mayor who publicly says we must follow the law but now pressurises us to contradict the law by contracting stations that are not compliant,” wrote Sefara.Insiders at the city accused Mashaba of a political purge of senior executives, saying he had repeatedly stated in private meetings that he wanted to get “ANC snakes” out of Joburg, a reference to executive managers appointed by the previous ANC administration.
Sefara is also seeking to force Mashaba to publicly apologise to him after the mayor accused him of skipping an important work event without approval. The mayor is said to have privately apologised when he found that Sefara had been off work sick that day, but has refused to apologise in public.
‘Cadre deployment days are gone’
Mashaba’s spokesperson, Luyanda Mfeka, denied that Mashaba had sought to interfere in the procurement processes of the city, saying the mayor was only unhappy with a lack of action in making sure his address was widely disseminated by a department controlling a R311-million budget.
“Mr Sefara’s prolonged inaction of this matter resulted in messaging from the address being communicated to fewer residents who have an interest in the affairs of the municipality. The implicit allegation that the mayor sought to interfere in procurement processes is without basis,” he said.Mfeka said Mashaba was not purging executives but had made it clear that his government had no space for officials who are more interested in playing politics than serving the interests of the city.
“The days when the ANC used the City of Johannesburg as the vehicle for their cadre deployment are gone.”
He said the mayor was not specifically referring to Sefara but to all officials.“At no point has the mayor ever referred to Mr Sefara as an official partial to the ANC. However, as strange as it may be, should Mr Sefara believe the shoe fits in relation to him, he is free to wear it.”Mfeka denied that Mashaba had apologised to Sefara, saying the mayor had taken exception to the latter being absent from an event involving his department without tendering an apology.
Sefara confirmed the e-mail exchange but refused to comment further.
“It is true that I did exchange e-mails with the mayor. I was put under pressure to do certain things I did not want to do, but it’s not something I want to talk about out of respect of the employment relationship I had with the city,” he said.