What “Sputla” Ramo­kgopa’s tenure as Tshwane mayor says about how he will handle our power crisis

What “Sputla” Ramo­kgopa’s tenure as Tshwane mayor says about  how he will handle our power crisis
Kgosientso Ramokgopa being sworn in as the minister of electricity at a ceremony in Cape Town on 7 March. Photo: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Community members and leaders in the City of Tshwane, where our new Electricity Minister Kgosientsho “Sputla” Ramo­kgopa was mayor, are not all excited about his appointment

Kgosientsho “Sputla” Ramo­kgopa’s tenure as City of Tshwane mayor was a chequered affair. There are some folks who believe the recently appointed Minister of Electricity was good at his work, but others believe he left the metro in a worse state than he found it.

Ramokgopa succeeded his aunt, Gwen Ramokgopa, as mayor in November 2010 and served in the position until he left under acrimonious circumstances in 2016. This came after then little-known lawyer and Tshwane ANC deputy regional chairperson the now late Mapiti Matsena contested with him for the position of the ANC’s candidate mayor in the impending local government elections of August 2016. Ramokgopa believed the ANC should retain him as mayor, whereas Matsena felt that as the regional chairperson he should assume the mayorship.

A so-called compromise was made by ANC structures to ease the conflict and Thoko Didiza stood in as a compromise candidate for the ­mayorship of Tshwane.

This move by the ANC led to violence in the townships of Tshwane, especially Mamelodi, in June 2016.

MEC for Education in Gauteng Matome Chiloane, who was at the time ANC Youth League chairperson, heaped the blame on Ramokgopa for the violence, saying that he had failed to unite the ANC in the region.

But to others in the party, such as Tshwane councillor Dr Kgosi Maepa, Ramokgopa is the human equivalent of manna from heaven. “We have seen his intellectual prowess, ability and capability. We agree with the President that he is a suitable candidate to execute the … challenge of energy production for our country.”

Opposition parties and community organisations disagree.

If you consider Sputla Ramokgopa’s legacy in collapsing the City of Tshwane, and the malfeasance that took place under his watch, it is deeply concerning that such an individual could be placed in charge of addressing the challenge of ending load shedding…

Azapo Deputy President Kekeletso Khena sees Ramokgopa’s appointment as a “farce and a waste of money”, arguing that the new electricity czar had delivered nothing in his political career, and saying that “he, like President Cyril Ramaphosa, is brilliant at selling pipe dreams”.

Pan Africanist Congress of Azania spokesperson Jaki Seroke raised concerns that there had been claims that Ramokgopa might have to answer for corruption issues around infrastructure development projects in Tshwane at the time he was the mayor. He also expressed doubt about whether Ramokgopa would be able to work hand in hand with powerful figures such as Gwede Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan.

Oupa Mtshweni, the founder of Concerned Residents for Service Delivery in Mamelodi, lambasted Ramokgopa for having failed to deliver services to the community of Mamelodi during his tenure as mayor.

“To tell you the truth, Ramokgopa was more concerned about delivering services to his hometown of Atteridgeville and didn’t care much about the rest of the townships in Tshwane. He commissioned the building of backrooms for the people of Atteridgeville while the same was not done in the rest of Tshwane,” lamented Mtshweni.


Read in Daily Maverick: “Ramokgopa, when he was mayor of Tshwane, was not very kind to journalist colleagues when they started writing critically about what turned out to be a very dodgy prepaid electricity meter deal with a company called PEU under his watch.”

Duke Masemola, former leader of Phomolong squatter camp community, in the far east of Mamelodi, said he was sceptical about Ramokgopa’s ability to carry out the mammoth task of making sure that South Africans are consistently supplied with electricity. “The man failed to prioritise our relocation from the squatter camp to a more habitable place after making many promises to do so.

“He also failed to implement his informal settlement formalisation plan … Now how is he going to deal with the load shedding matter?” asked Masemola.

ActionSA’s spokesperson, Michael Beaumont, was even more scathing. “If you consider Sputla Ramokgopa’s legacy in collapsing the City of Tshwane, and the malfeasance that took place under his watch, it is deeply concerning that such an individual could be placed in charge of addressing the challenge of ending load shedding…”

The DA’s mayoral candidate in the City of Tshwane, Cilliers Brink, concurred with Beaumont, saying: “As for Sputla’s legacy in Tshwane, it was a financial disaster for the City. The City still hasn’t recovered from the damage done by the PEU [smart meter] ­contract.”

Ramokgopa had not responded at the time of going to press to DM168’s queries regarding allegations of financial mismanagement and failure to take remedial action during his stint as the mayor.

The allegations are as follows:

PEU prepaid smart meter contract of 2012: In 2012, PEU started as a contractor rendering advisory services on how the City could save money by implementing smart prepaid meters. But PEU ended up as a service provider. This after its subsidiary, Tshwane Utility Management Services, was awarded a tender to install smart prepaid electricity meters in Tshwane. When the contract was terminated because it was discovered by the Auditor-General to have been awarded irregularly, the City of Tshwane nevertheless agreed to pay out R950-million to PEU as compensation for the termination. In 2018, the North Gauteng High Court finally ruled that both the original contract and its termination deal were unconstitutional.

Failed Tribe One music festival: R65-­million was spent on a music festival headlined by US singer Nicki Minaj that never took place. Minaj had been billed to perform at a three-day music festival in September 2012 in the Tshwane suburb of Cullinan.

Former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga said Tshwane was “technically bankrupt” when the DA won control of the metro after the August 2016 local government elections. He said his predecessor, Ramokgopa, had inflated the number of staff to more than 900, costing almost R250-million a year in salaries.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Millar says:

    Wrong person for a job that should not have existed in the first place. It is only a matter of time before we hear of conspiracies by the press to make him fail, etc.

  • andrew farrer says:

    @Johan, You surely meant to say after he plays the race card, then conspiracies . . .

  • Robert Morgan says:

    Sputla is the sound my gutting candles make when I‘m sitting on my own in a darkened room wondering when the effing electricity is going to come back on. This hopeless chump is less a minister of electricity and more an onomatopoeia.

  • Derrick Kourie says:

    Much more could be said about what was discovered when the DA took over in 2016. For example, they were bound by many irrational contracts. They found thatthe council did not own a single vehicle, but was bound by a lopsided contract to a contractor, obliging the council to pay for a variety of vehicle costs that would conventionally be carried by the contractor. I have also heard that it was quickly discovered that 200+ people were on the payroll about whom nothing was known: no known office, no known job description, etc. These people were sent an email to report to work the next day, or they would be fired. There was also suspicion about large numbers of embedded employees who were taking kickbacks. Flushing out this kind of corruption takes a long time.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    So by all accounts a disaster of a Mayor during his tenure, with dodgy deals following him like sharks at a sardine run. He then moved on to be the Presidential Infrastructure czar, compiling lists of ‘shovel ready’ projects to the tune of hundreds of billions, trotted out by Cyril every year as the engine to kickstart our economy and turn South Africa into a massive building site. Trouble is, these are not new projects, but a compilation of infrastructure projects that have been in the pipeline for years and don’t amount to anything more than routine project and infrastructure delivery – and yet not one has been delivered as yet. Not one.

    More importantly, given the allegations that there are cabinet ministers involved with criminal cartels that are sabotaging our power stations, as well as billions in routine theft, what ‘policies’ will be spouted forth to overcome this theft and corruption?

  • Gordon Brown says:

    Dr Kgosientsho “Sputla” Ramo­kgopa was the host of Sustainability Week, an international conference we ran in partnership with the City of Tshwane from 2011-2016 through the change over from ANC to DA. I found Sputla to be man of action, a deal maker, and a capable and popular leader. I won’t list all his achievements but I’m relieved he has been appointed. So long as he is given the full backing of the Presidency, I believe he will implement the strategy. Its been the implementation that’s missing and he can solve this. I wish Kgosientsho Ramo­kgopa and the rest of us all the very best!!

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