Tshwane coalition storm brews as DA mayor accused in R26bn tender bid
In a leaked audio recording from a year ago, Tshwane’s executive mayor, Randall Williams, can be heard instructing senior officials to support his executive decision — ‘whether they agree or disagree’ — for an unsolicited bid, while another official warns that the council could face possible litigation.
The future of the multiparty coalition governing Tshwane hangs in the balance as allegations of corruption and political interference in a multibillion-rand tender for the refurbishment of two power stations have been levelled against the executive mayor, Randall Williams.
The R26-billion bid is aimed at obtaining a service provider, which Williams has allegedly handpicked, to obtain a concession to refurbish, finance, operate and maintain both the Pretoria West and Rooiwal power stations.
The allegations were brought to the fore by ActionSA’s Gauteng chairperson, Bongani Baloyi, who indicated that the party would vote against a report which sought public consultation to be conducted on the unsolicited bid.
Baloyi said the report was unlawful and in breach of the prescripts of a signed multiparty coalition agreement.
The proposal, according to Baloyi, was presented as an unsolicited bid, yet there was no indication of which legal requirements this unsolicited bid met in terms of Section 113(2) of the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Both the provincial and national treasuries had, in writing, raised concerns about the proposal being driven by “inappropriate levels of involvement of the political office of the executive mayor”, according to Baloyi.
Williams has since denied the allegations and withdrawn the tender bid report in question, a move which ActionSA has welcomed.
The ANC and the EFF, which occupy the opposition benches, are, however, not letting matters slide. The EFF’s Obakeng Ramabodu on Wednesday opened a criminal case against Williams. This was as the ANC’s caucus spokesperson, Kgomotso Masilela, threatened to follow suit and open a corruption case.
“The ANC Tshwane caucus has been vindicated… the DA-led coalition government corruption is visible for everyone to see. We will be submitting a motion of no confidence against the executive mayor,” said Masilela.
Daily Maverick elections analyst, Wayne Sussman, says although it appeared as if the multiparty coalition — which is among the most stable in the country — now hangs in the balance, it remained in the interests of both ActionSA and the DA to ensure the coalition does not fail.
Sussman said it was expected that the two parties would often attack each other, but warned that “if they’re rational actors, I don’t think they would want to sink the ship.
“ActionSA wouldn’t want to see itself as responsible for the ANC coming back, and nor would the DA. I think we’ve got a long way to go.”
On the EFF being the first to open a criminal case, Sussman said this, too, was expected, even though the EFF benefited more from the ANC being in opposition.
“It’s going to become more aggressive and more vicious as they try to gain influence or weaken each other. But ultimately, I think that if they’re rational actors, the coalition will remain in place,” he said.
Sussman warned that SA has a long way to go in ensuring that coalitions work for the betterment of citizens’ lives.
The EFF’s Obakeng Ramabodu did not respond to questions about an instruction from the party’s national leadership not to speak to Daily Maverick.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “A statement from Daily Maverick Editor-in-Chief Branko Brkic on EFF congress and important media freedom issues”
An EFF insider, however, said the party was calling for Williams’ resignation, failing which it would file or support any motion of no confidence brought against the mayor.
Although ActionSA, the DA and the EFF had a common enemy — the ANC — the insider said the red berets were not power hungry.
“We are available to assist ActionSA with our votes to topple the mayor because the man is clueless… he has in fact overstayed his welcome. We don’t want power if the people don’t want us. We are not selfish like that.”
In the leaked recording, which Daily Maverick has listened to, a meeting between Williams and the city’s officials is under way. Williams can be heard exercising his authority while warning that some people in the meeting had forgotten their roles.
He is heard telling the senior officials that he has taken an executive decision for an unsolicited bid, which the officials must support.
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“It is the role of the executive authority to take strategic decisions, and the role of the administration is to implement those decisions whether they agree or disagree with those decisions,” he is heard saying.
He further told the meeting that administration staff did not have a right to oppose any decision taken by the executive and that the only people entitled to oppose or question decisions were those who had stood for public office and sat in council as public representatives.
Warning of errors
One official can be heard pleading with Williams to afford them more time to look into the proposal which, he said, had mistakes that needed to be corrected to avoid a backlash and possible legal action.
“I will never disrespect you. I have the highest respect for you. And I regard you as a highly intelligent person. But I’m asking you to allow us to work through this thing,” the unidentified official said on the recording.
“So that if something goes wrong, and you’ve given us the time to go through what we need to go to, you can rightfully say, officials, go and answer on those things.”
Response to allegations
Williams has not responded in any great depth to the allegations. In a brief statement issued earlier this week, he denied any wrongdoing.
He confirmed the authenticity of the recording of a meeting that he said took place a year ago and discussed “how to approach this matter within the confines of local government legislation and the law so that we follow due process”.
“No unlawful instructions were given. By the end of this, we agreed on the way forward… a process which has taken us a year, but resulted in us bringing a public participation report on this matter to council,” he said.
On Friday, 19 August, Williams will address members of the media on the latest developments in the municipality. Williams is expected to provide details regarding a public participation report on a proposal concerning the leasing of land on which the city’s power stations are located.
This initiative, which would have helped the City of Tshwane become free of rolling blackouts, was opposed by various political parties in council earlier this week.
Williams will also respond to the allegations made against him and announce further steps to deal with said allegations.
Williams has accused ActionSA and the EFF of smearing his name and undermining his governance in the city.
He also said he intended to consult with his attorneys with a view to taking legal action against “individuals who have defamed me. Nonetheless, the DA and I will continue to strive to end load shedding in our city, protect our residents and uphold the rule of law”.
Meanwhile, the Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements, Lebogang Maile, said on Wednesday that he had written to Williams requesting him to respond to the allegations of impropriety. DM