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Vol 62 No 16

Published 5th August 2021

South Africa

Who runs Gauteng?

As the national political and commercial powerhouse, Gauteng is one of the most contested provinces in the country

Gauteng is South Africa's smallest but most densely populated and richest province, covering 1.5% of the country's land mass, with an estimated population in excess of 15 million and contributing a third of South Africa's – and 10% of all of sub-Saharan Africa's – gross domestic product.

The African National Congress runs the province, but only just. Out of 73 seats in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, the ANC has 37, leaving it just one seat away from a potential loss of control. The ANC's closest rival, the centre-right opposition Democratic Alliance, has 20 seats, and the ANC's left-wing splinter, the Economic Freedom Fighters, 11. In theory, the DA and the EFF could combine forces to oust the ANC but they are so far apart ideologically that any coalition between them would be highly unstable.

Big budget
The provincial government has tabled a 142.6 billion rand (US$9.9bn) budget for the 2021/22 financial year, rising to R149bn by 2023/2024, the largest of all the provincial budgets. Only R6.7bn of this money (4.6%) comes from provincial revenues; the rest comes from central government, because it is located there, in Tshwane (Pretoria) and Johannesburg. The Western Cape's provincial budget, by contrast, is around R72bn a year, while the Eastern Cape's is around R86bn. The budget of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), whose population is similar to Gauteng's, comes close, at around R133bn annually for the next three years.

The ANC has used its control of Gauteng and Johannesburg's budgets to deliver lucrative contracts to businesses with the right political connections but not necessarily the capacity or competence. The party is not alone in this. When Herman Mashaba was mayor of Johannesburg and with the DA, he allegedly steered numerous lucrative contracts to companies connected to the EFF, the DA's coalition partner in the city at the time (AC Vol 60 No 23, The DA's race dilemma).

Few of these politically connected tender awards have done much for the well-being of Gauteng's cities, and their infrastructure is crumbling. The decay is particularly obvious in Johannesburg, whose residents experience more and more water shortages, power cuts, and potholes, as municipal maintenance falters.

Gauteng premier David Makhura is also the ANC provincial chairperson and is generally counted an ally of President Cyril Ramaphosa (AC Vol 61 No 16, In virus veritas). How far that alliance goes, however, is unclear, since Makhura is also close to Paul Mashatile, the ANC treasurer, who harbours presidential ambitions of his own (AC Vol 62 No 2, Cyril and Ace's linked fates). Makhura is liked by many of the party's old guard and is a trustee of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (Ahmed Kathrada was convicted with Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia trial). Makhura was born in 1968 in Limpopo Province and came into politics first via the South African Students Congress (SASCO) and then through the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU).

Makhura's cabinet has now been purged of politicians affiliated to former President Jacob Zuma or Ace Magashule, the embattled party secretary-general, but remains a hotbed of intrigue. Makhura has warned several times that in-fighting may yet destroy the ANC in Gauteng. The main threat to Makhura comes from Lebogang Maile, who is the MEC (provincial minister) for Human Settlements, Urban Planning, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Maile has long had his eyes on the Gauteng premiership and, despite his denials, a faction within the provincial ANC is urging him on. The faction includes ANC provincial secretary Jacob Khawe and the controversial, Magashule-supporting Ekurhuleni ANC regional chairperson and city mayor, Mzwandile Masina (AC Vol 61 No 18, Cyril wins a battle over graft).

The 42-year-old Maile, previously Gauteng president of the ANC Youth League, is seen as Mashatile's protégé. Ambitious and abrasive, Maile exceeded his ministerial powers in 2020 when he dissolved the DA-controlled Tshwane city council after wrangling within the DA, but his action was set aside in a ruling by the High Court, later confirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal. The DA has threatened to try to hold Maile personally accountable for the heavy legal costs it incurred fighting the cases.

Khawe is a former mayor of Emfuleni, a municipality that includes Sharpeville and Vanderbijlpark, where he was embroiled in scandal after the municipality awarded lucrative contracts to Opulentia, a company linked to his partner, Nthabiseng Khabutlane. Khawe had been married to Thuliswa Nkabinde-Khawe, a former Gauteng MEC for Social Development, who died in November 2019.

Masina, 47, formerly a national deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, has been the Ekurhuleni mayor since 2016, and is Magashule and Zuma's main ally in Gauteng. Aside from a steady stream of provocative tweets, such as one endorsing a call from EFF leader Julius Malema that South Africa should 'let the white economy collapse', Masina has strong support within ANC branches in Ekurhuleni, where he has made liberal use of the municipal fund for community and poverty alleviation projects.

These have risen from R20m annually to over R100m under his mayorship, winning him friends and influence. Many of the largest allocations have gone to companies specialising in entertainment events. R1.4m has been spent from the fund, for example, on 'discovering stars of talent', while less glamourous enterprises, such as crèches and home-based care organisations, receive allocations rarely exceeding R30,000.

The investigative journalism outfit amaBhungane reported that under Masina, Ekurhuleni has awarded over R340m ($23m) in IT contracts to tycoon Thulani Majola's LTE, and LTE has paid R2m to the Gauteng ANC and another R500,000 to the party's Ekurhuleni region. Masina has said that LTE won contracts in the municipality before his time, and denied that there was any connection between the latest contracts and Majola's munificence towards the ANC.

Panyaza Lesufi is Gauteng's MEC for education, the deputy chairperson of the provincial ANC, and a Makhura ally (AC Vol 61 No 16, In virus veritas). Lesufi's credibility as a member of Ramaphosa's anti-corruption faction of the ANC was compromised by the news earlier this year that the R431m Lesufi's department had spent on 'deep cleaning' schools as part of its Covid-19 response had been distributed to politically connected companies with little track record in cleaning. Lesufi professed to be horrified when the news came out, but he has repeatedly declined to step aside from his duties while the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigates.

Former health MEC Bandile Masuku was one of Gauteng's leading politicians and seemed destined to become either the premier or a national minister until it emerged that his department had awarded a corrupt contract for personal protective equipment (PPE) to a company controlled by Thandisizwe Madzikane II Diko, a senior chief of the Bhaca clan. Diko's wife is Khusela Diko, who was at the time Ramaphosa's spokesperson (AC Vol 61 No 17, Graft puts ANC on the spot).

The Dikos are family friends of the Masukus. The SIU cried foul, but Masuku went to court to oppose its findings. In April, the High Court in Tshwane ruled that while there was no evidence Masuku was corrupt, he was politically responsible for the tender, which was corrupt. Both the SIU and Masuku claim to have been vindicated by the ruling.

After much hesitation, Makhura sacked Masuku as health MEC last October, but Masuku continues to insist that he is innocent and is being stabbed in the back by his enemies in the ANC. The Gauteng ANC ruled that Masuku had brought the party into disrepute, but this has since been reversed by the party's national disciplinary committee. Masuku was hoping that this would lead to his reappointment to Makhura's cabinet, but it did not happen. Adding to the soap-opera-like intrigue, Diko is also Jacob Khawe's ex-wife, and she has accused Khawe of exploiting the scandal to try to destroy her political career.

Masuku's replacement as Gauteng health MEC, Nomathemba Mokgethi, has had her hands full dealing with a steep surge in Covid-19 cases in the province, and the fallout from a fire that gutted the Charlotte Maxeke hospital in central Johannesburg in April. An investigation found that the hospital fire extinguishers were not working due to a lack of maintenance. The hospital, one of the largest in the province, remains closed and in early July it was reported that despite being guarded it has been extensively looted since its closure, with copper piping worth R30m carted off, along with TVs and microwaves.

Faith Mazibuko is the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety and is a powerful figure in the provincial party. A former member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, she has held several other provincial ministerial positions. Another rising star is 36-year-old Tasneem Motara, the MEC for Infrastructure and Development, who always seems to be present at Makhura's public appearances.

Parks Tau, a former mayor of Johannesburg, is the province's Economic Development MEC. Tau's wife, Pilisiwe Twala-Tau, is the executive director for community development in Johannesburg. Twala-Tau is said by the DA to be a business associate of Dikeledi Majola, the widow of Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo, who died from Covid-related symptoms on 9 July.

The DA claims that both Twala-Tau and Majola received shares in Capitec, a South African bank, from Regiments Capital, a company closely linked to the infamous Gupta family, which is at the centre of the long-running 'state capture' hearings being chaired by acting chief justice Raymond Zondo (AC Vol 58 No 22, Snagged by the Guptas' global reach). Regiments earned over R300m in fees from contracts with the city of Johannesburg awarded during both Tau and Makhubo's tenures. City officials have denied any wrongdoing.

Makhubo had appeared before the Zondo Commission to answer questions about his relationship to Regiments and EOH, an IT and consultancy company. Both companies won multiple tenders with the city of Johannesburg, made generous donations to the ANC, and awarded sub-contracts to Makhubo's own company, Molelwane Consulting. At the time, Makhubo was the political head of the city's finance department and was politically responsible for the Regiments and the EOH contracts. Makhubo disclosed his interest in Molelwane to the city but appears not to have disclosed that the company was receiving cuts from the Regiments and EOH contracts.

Influential outsiders
Outside the ANC, the two most influential politicians in the province are probably the DA's Randall Williams and the Patriotic Alliance (PA)'s Gayton McKenzie. Both are, in South African parlance, 'coloured'. Williams is from Cape Town and has been the mayor of Tshwane since late last year. He previously headed the national Department of Trade and Industry's international trade division. In May, when presenting the city's budget, Williams claimed that Tshwane was bankrupt and raised local taxes by up to 15%.

McKenzie is a former gangster who was imprisoned in the late 1990s for armed robbery, eventually serving seven years of a 15-year sentence. He was released in the early 2000s, not long after testifying about corruption in prisons to a commission of inquiry. He went on to become a successful author and motivational speaker – one book is entitled A Hustler's Bible – addressing multiple audiences about his entry into and departure from a life of crime.

In 2013, McKenzie founded the PA. In Gauteng, the party has acquired a large following in Johannesburg's largely coloured Eldorado Park suburb, where it has been steadily taking votes away from the DA. The DA won 80% of the Eldorado Park vote in 2016, but in by-elections held in May secured only 22% to the PA's 62%. The ANC came a distant third. McKenzie is unashamedly populist, promising to 'jail all illegal immigrants' on his first day in office should he ever become President.

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