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Joburg Property Company run by a receptionist, a tollgate cashier and a matric-less ANC leader

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A tollgate cashier, a receptionist and a person with a grade 11 have been appointed to the board of the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC), an entity that oversees the city’s 30,700-odd properties, worth about R8.7bn.

These are some of the city appointees said to be personally and politically connected to Joburg’s mayoral committee member for economic development, Nomoya Mnisi. Some belong to her ANC branch in Soweto, while others are members of her party zone in the west of Johannesburg.

There are allegations that Mnisi tried to use her influence to make the JPC settle a bill of more than R800,000 at a Sandton hotel where the Johannesburg ANC Youth League was holding a regional conference. At the time, she was the league’s treasurer in the region.

Details have now emerged of how Mnisi allegedly threatened to “retire” board members who disagreed with her following the uncovering of the scandal.

JPC is struggling to run and maintain its properties, with dozens of city-owned buildings in the hands of slumlords who illegally collect rent from occupants. .

Its board was appointed in March. As a political principal that oversees the entity, Mnisi has a huge influence on appointments.

These questionable appointments were made possible by the unstable environment in the municipality, caused by frequently changing coalition governments. Insiders said the deployment of unqualified people to key positions in Joburg was rampant — in all parties that form part of the coalition government.

Mnisi was appointed to the mayoral committee last year after an ANC-led coalition removed mayor Mpho Phalatse. The JPC board was appointed under her. This revelation also comes as the DA is fighting in the courts and parliament to end the ANC’s cadre deployment policy.

The JPC appoints members of it board through an application, interview and shortlisting process overseen by the group corporate & shared services department, the responsible MMC and the city manager. The board then appoints a CEO to manage its day-to-day operations. The CEO reports to the board, which reports quarterly to the mayoral committee member — in this case Mnisi.

It is this selection process that resulted in Enos Sithole, a chair of an ANC branch in ward 129 in Soweto, being appointed chair of the board. Mnisi belongs to the same branch.

Ntombikayise Tini, a matriculant and former ANC Youth League task team regional leader, had previously worked only as a receptionist and sales representative when she was appointed to the board. In a Facebook post she candidly referred to the MMC as her “personal person” when congratulating Mnisi on her appointment as a member of the mayoral committee.

Another Mnisi ally who made it on to the board is ANC ward 43 executive committee member Ellen Rakodi. She landed a seat on the board after having worked only as a tollgate cashier and a contracted general worker. Rakodi boasts a matric and a certificate in networking theory from Birnam Business College. In her CV, Rakodi states that she sought “challenging opportunities” where she could fully use her skills for the success of the organisation she worked for.  She also wanted to work in an environment that encouraged her to succeed and grow professionally.

Another board member, Rachel Makwela, whose highest schooling level is grade 11, completed a call-centre course at Cornerstone College, as well as basic training in being a shop steward, handling unfair dismissals and following CCMA processes. Makwela serves on the JPC board’s independent audit and risk committee.

Mnisi declined to comment and referred the Sunday Times to the city’s group governance department, saying it was not her place to respond to the allegations. Rakodi said she was at a funeral when contacted for comment and did not respond to questions. Tini dropped the call after questions were posed to her. The cellphones of both Sithole and Makwela rang unanswered. None of them had responded to detailed questions at the time of going to press.

Investigations have revealed that an alarming majority of the board members do not have the required capacity, skill or experience to lead the city’s property company,.

An insider in the ANC zone in the west of Johannesburg confirmed the above ANC members’ ward designations, and that wards 129 and 43 are in the same zone.

Former group governance MMC and DA councillor Leah Knott said the phenomenon of unqualified board members was not new, having begun in the previous administration led by the ANC. The process was “easy to manipulate”, she said.

“When we came in and looked at the existing boards around January/February 2021, one of the first entities we reviewed was Johannesburg Social Housing Company SOC [Joscho]. We found that on that board, they had a hairdresser and a makeup artist, among others. There was not a single person on there that was qualified or experienced in anything to do with housing or social housing, hostels, or student accommodation — nothing.”

Knott said it had become a problematic culture to appoint people with no experience or skills, with only  political connections prioritised.

“The majority of the process is made up of politicians so if it is not done objectively and based on who is fit for purpose, you end up with a problem. This is why we see so many state-owned entities failing.

“The problem with the connection to the MMCs and board members is a big one. When the shortlisting and interviewing are done, you have to declare any relationships and conflicts of interest, and they have to be filed on record. If there is a conflict of interest, either a relationship to the person or you’ve worked with them before, as soon as a close relation can be established that could result in a conflict — you should excuse yourself from the process.

“There should be criteria that are specified and advertised. In our term, for instance in City Power, we looked for people who were engineers or former engineers. Audit committee members need to have a legal background. So you need to get a combination of experienced, professional people. But this criteria stance depends on the administration,” said Knott.

The advert inviting applicants issued in January declared that interested people needed relevant qualifications and experience “related to the various sectors and disciplines required by the relevant city of Joburg municipal entity and the group”.

“However, the applicants selected did not seem to fulfill the specified criteria and still managed to seamlessly slide through the processes,” said Knott.

This is not the first time Mnisi has landed in hot water. She was recently accused of attempting to solicit just under R1m from the city to cater for delegates at the ANC Youth League Joburg regional conference.

Mnisi, an ANC deployee and youth league national executive committee member, allegedly tried to force former JPC acting CFO Sipho Mzobe to sign off on payments to a Sandton establishment where about 260 conference delegates were accommodated. Mzobe raised the alarm on Mnisi’s alleged interference and has since resigned from the acting post.

The Sunday Times has seen text messages from Mnisi allegedly threatening to remove board members after the Mzobe memo was made public.  She instructed some board members to vacate their positions for failing to toe her line. She has been accused of trying to hand-pick executives and board members of the JPC, which is one of Johannesburg’s wealthiest entities.

SMS 1 read: “Hi. Are you going to send your retirement or you want me to retire you? I will give you till Monday to submit the letter.”

SMS 2 said: “I have the recording. I’m not interested in who said what! I didn’t rely on anyone to give me any information. You must go to your friends that you are loyal to. I’m certain their will hire you, for now I need you to resign.”

The property company is about to oversee a R2bn refurbishment of the city’s metro building and a “decant” into adjacent properties, including temporary relocation of at least 20,000 staff members during the renovations that will cost citizens hundreds of millions of rands. The JPC board will oversee the contract.

Source: Times Live

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