Johannesburg - It is not a funeral scam but a community initiative aimed at helping community members with the challenges of burying loved ones.
These are the words of newly-elected Joburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, who, upon taking up the hot seat of being the first citizen of the City of Gold, finds himself embroiled in a community burial scheme scam.
Yesterday, the Al Jama-Ah councillor spent his first Sunday as mayor at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto, where he was welcomed by the congregation and personally by Bishop Mosa Sono.
Gwamanda, who was seated in the front row during yesterday’s service, smiled when Sono congratulated him for being the city’s first citizen, adding that this was a complex job.
“The mayor has felt that he needs to be in church before he takes on the very complex job of leading Joburg. I was saying to him earlier that Al Jama-Ah is not the majority party, so you are going to be pushed around by the big boys. So you really need wisdom and guidance. We are grateful, honourable mayor, when you recognise the role of the church and understand what spiritual leadership is about and how important it is for God’s message in your life. I did read an article by News24 in which you said you believe it is God’s will that you were chosen. As a church, we will pray for you, and as a church, we will always support our government, and we pray for all of you,” Sono said.
Gwamanda was voted into power through an ANC and EFF-led coalition, winning with a whopping 139 votes, while the DA’s Mpho Phalatse and ActionSA’s Funzi Ngobeni received 68 and 59 votes, respectively.
Gwamanda’s rise to leadership follows the resignation of fellow party member Thapelo Amad, who left office before a vote of no confidence last week.
However, on Saturday, the DA said it was concerned about allegations made against Gwamanda that had been circulating on social media regarding a funeral-related scam.
“The allegations circulating on social media suggest that our newly elected executive mayor may have flouted the financial laws of this country and swindled and scammed members of the public.
“It is however concerning that there has since been damning information circulating about Cllr Kabelo Gwamanda, which casts aspersions on whether he could be trusted with such responsibilities, including overseeing the more than R70 billion budget of the City of Joburg,” the DA in Joburg said.
On these allegations, Gwamanda, through a statement issued by members of his team, denied their initiative being a scam, saying when he, Amad, and a third person were faced with challenges as young people, they started a community initiative to help other young people negotiate the challenges of burying their loved ones.
“Mduduzi (Zondo), Thepelo (Amad), and Kabelo, as young boys faced with challenges they were experiencing in the community, started an initiative that was to serve the community and have access to burial services. This initiative was to have community members contribute towards a burial fee for those who can afford it, but also for poorer families who cannot afford to contribute financially or even bury their loved ones,” a statement read.
During his acceptance speech on Friday, Gwamanda said he was aware of the challenges faced by residents of the city.
“It is my view that the responsibility is one that is duty-bound and not a mere title of glamour, prestige, or celebrity status that most would want to think of,” he said.