By Anel Powell
Executive mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo acknowledged on Tuesday that she knew that Thabo Mokwena of TMC Consulting was appointed in a closed bid process to manage the development of jewellery city in Cape Town.
She told the Cape Times: "I was aware that the first phase, the scoping exercise, would not be going out to tender, and the second phase would. That process is currently under way."
Mfeketo was at the August 2 meeting when Mokwena presented his jewellery city concept, then in his capacity as a ministerial adviser in the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME).
But she said that Mokwena's appointment, approved just five days later, was signed off by her city manager, Wallace Mgoqi.
According to local government legislation, unsolicited bids may only be approved in a closed bid if there is an emergency and if there is only one viable provider for the service required.
Ike Nxedlana, executive director of finance for the city council, said the city manager had the authority to deem a contract as an emergency. He said Mokwena's appointment was rushed through the mayoral executive committee because of his "specialist knowledge".
Meanwhile, industry experts, including leading exporters OROAfrica, have come forward saying they had similar proposals for a jewellery city. Steven Nathan, CEO of OROAfrica, said he would have presented his proposal to the city for consideration.
Mfeketo said she did not know there were other companies working on similar concepts.
The DA has said that it will conduct an open forensic investigation into the contract if it wins in next year's elections.
Of the project's status, the mayor said the second phase was under way. "The tender has been published (for a developer). Some bidders have expressed interest and adjudication will take place in the new year."
Countering allegations of secrecy surrounding Mokwena's appointment and the contract details, the mayor said: "Matters that require council approval will be taken to council."
Neilson, however, alleged the contract was "corruption with a capital C" as it was "awarded improperly to friends".
Mfeketo denied any relationship between Mokwena and herself. She said that the Johannesburg-based consultant has been allocated "temporary space" in the civic centre, "in the event that extensive consultations with city officials are required".