Mzwandile Masina
Ekurhuleni - Like many municipalities in the country, Ekurhuleni is dogged by allegations of unethical conduct among council officials and the lack of consequences for bribery and corruption. 

From tender fraud to bribery by officials in the traffic department and corruption in projects such as housing, the municipality seems to be battling the scourge.

But mayor Mzwandile Masina believes his council is doing enough to root out the rot. He says the media is preoccupied with negative reporting, opting to ignore the strides his council is making in sanctioning those found to be involved in acts of malfeasance.

“We can tell you now that instances of fraud and corruption have been drastically reduced in Ekurhuleni. Where they are appearing, we are able to deal with them decisively, and people have been punished.

“It (corruption) is a serious issue, because we are running a R50billion (a year budget) municipality that employs almost 20000 employees,” he said this week.

“On instances where (corruption) is reported, we have an approach of acting immediately. The only difference with us is that we don’t do it in our friend’s style,” he says, in an apparent swipe at City of Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

“There are instances where people have been fired, suspended if they are suspects of corruption and maladministration. We are fighting corruption much more coherently and we are in charge of our internal controls.”

Turning to the media, Masina said: “The problem is that the media tends to side with the opposition - that’s a reality in South Africa. Many a time, many successes are not reported. The media is only interested in our municipality when there are negative allegations.”

He said the metro would not bow to media pressure and embark on a witch-hunt of officials while the allegations against them hadn’t been tested.

“Where there has been conclusive evidence, we come out (but) we are ignored because when they (the media) say they are chasing ANC corruption, it’s appealing and makes it to the headlines.

“But if you make a standard measure of our city, we are stable. We run the best city”

Masina took over from Mondli Gungubele after the August 2016 local elections, having moved from the Department of Trade and Industry where he was the deputy minister.

His ascension raised suspicions because he was among former president Jacob Zuma’s staunchest supporters.

Some saw his appointment as a reward for his loyalty to Zuma.

Masina believed that some of the “negative” reporting around Ekurhuleni was part of a campaign to besmirch him and undermine his leadership. “The (media) attitude over the past 24 months has been something, because it was about tarnishing the image of the ANC and the mayor.”

Ekurhuleni, like Tshwane and Joburg, has been run by a coalition government since the local government elections.

Masina said he was pleased that he was running “a relatively stable” municipality.

“We are managing complex relationships, addressing the issue of alliance (because of) (opposition) parties that don’t share your ideology. But there has never been a meeting of council which did not complete business, pass budget, and so on.

“So, (the coalition) hasn’t impacted on administration, unlike in Tshwane and Joburg. There are problems but they’ve stabilised.”

Apart from fast-tracking service delivery, Ekurhuleni has prioritised job creation, with the manufacturing, mining as well as transport and freight industries as key sectors. The unemployment rate in Ekurhuleni remains high at just over 30%.

“Independent economists and other institutions rated us as the best in terms of job creation, having created 98000 jobs in the last 12 months.

“If we can sustain that trend, it would be great but we should do more, especially in the area of youth.”

To achieve this, the council needs to invest in upskilling residents.

“It’s one thing to have people who are unemployed and have those who are unemployable. We have invested over R200million over the past two years, among other projects, which we believe will have a direct impact in reducing unemployment.”

Other projects include:

Electrifying informal settlements (more than 20 000 have been given electricity over the past two years).

Improving sanitation and waste collection.

Revitalising the city centres to make them attractive, including expropriating derelict and abandoned buildings that owe municipal rates.

Developing new residential areas, including gated areas.

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Sunday Independent