News / South Africa

Gosebo Mathope
5 minute read
3 Aug 2017
1:31 pm

Joburg mayor accused of being too soft on Sharon Peetz’s ‘corruption’

Gosebo Mathope

Herman Mashaba, however, says the MMC 'misled him' with a 'false proof of payment' for travel costs.

Former MMC for Economic Development Sharon Peetz

The firing of Sharon Peetz, the former MMC of economic development, by Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba last night follows serious allegations of inconsistencies in how Mashaba deals with corruption allegations, particularly if it implicates his close associates.

The ANC also released a statement on Thursday repeating the allegations.

Peetz, described as “Mashaba’s weakest link the in the mayoral committee” by one source familiar with council skirmishes before her axing, is a marketing professional who previously worked as Johannesburg Tourism’s general manager, with business interests in other sectors.

A whistle-blower in council believes Mashaba was aware of Peetz’s misconduct as early as three months ago, and hoped to buttress the controversy by instead releasing regular updates of culprits nabbed in his city-wide cleanup operation. A report was handed to him about her alleged misconduct on 26 March, however.

According to another unverified report, “Sharon told a group of DA councillors that she will get involved in procurement [decision-making] at Johannesburg Tourism.”

She is alleged to have manipulated procurement processes to ensure that her business partner, who is understood to have previously worked with Peetz before being contracted to COP17, was shortlisted for the position of head of Johannesburg Tourism.

However, The Citizen was not able to establish whether the alleged Peetz business associate got the nod for the position.

It is further alleged that the business partner, despite being neither a service provider nor a city employee, represented Johannesburg Tourism in a number of official functions. The information provided also alleges the businesswoman worked closely with Mashaba previously.

READ MORE: Mashaba fires economic development MMC for ‘misconduct’

The Citizen was told Peetz had no intention of reimbursing the city for her mother’s portion of the trip and counted on Mashaba to overlook the transgression. This, the sources explained, was because Peetz had previously facilitated business deals for Mashaba when she headed Durban Tourism.

The approved trip, said to have been motivated by Peetz, who in her capacity as an MMC had political oversight of Johannesburg Tourism, was for attendance of the IBTM World exhibition in Spain from 29 November to 1 December 2016.

The Citizen is in possession of an ‘e-badge’ voucher for a ”Susan Patterson”, listed as a Johannesburg Convention Bureau delegate for the entire duration of the exhibition.

Peetz’s apparent early festive season gift to her mother at taxpayers’ expense allegedly unravelled when, upon processing of payments, the city’s finance department rejected settling her mother’s portion of the bill.

Peetz then handed the travel agency service provider (name withheld) a fraudulent check, which promptly bounced. Various sources argue that this was when Mashaba, in line with his daily mantra of rooting out corruption, should have taken decisive action against the truant MMC.

Mashaba, however, in a statement on Wednesday said “a forensic investigation conducted at the time … determined that the City had not incurred any costs for the travel of the family member. It was therefore determined that the allegations levelled against the Cllr Peetz at the time were without merit.”

He said new evidence had, however, come to light that “the proof of payment between Cllr Peetz and the travel agent, which the councillor had provided to my office as proof that she had paid the travel agent, was allegedly falsified”.

He said further forensic investigation had been undertaken into the proof of payment. He stressed that the money concerned “remains allegedly owed to the travel agent, and it remains the case that the City has not incurred any losses”. However, he said he felt the councillor had nevertheless “misled myself, the Council and the residents of Johannesburg”.

He added that he would not “tolerate such conduct” under his leadership.

“Irrespective of one’s role in the City, and irrespective of your political affiliation, there will be accountability for wrongdoing.”

Opposition councillors and officials had queried why, despite the huge bill, Peetz was allowed to ignore the statutory requirement of tabling a report to council and the Mayoral Council (Mayco).

“There has been no report back to Council, even to the Section 79 committee for Economic Development in which I serve,” one councillor said.

The office of the mayor was approached on Monday and requested to respond to a raft of allegations, including whether the mayor was inconsistent in how he dealt with Peetz, showing reluctance to act against the MMC despite apparently overwhelming evidence.

The request was preceded by a tip-off that a senior manager currently working for one of the city’s departments was offered a job in one of the municipal-owned entities – a job he allegedly declined because one of the KPAs was allegedly to get rid of ANC-appointed entity management.

The acting director for mayoral communications, Luyanda Mfeka, provided a case to The Citizen that due to the serious nature of the allegations, he would respond comprehensively by Wednesday.

Last night he said the media release, however, answered all the questions.

Mfeka has been sent a supplementary set of questions, particularly with regards to who conducted the “forensic investigation” against Peetz and when. Mfeka was also requested to respond to allegations that Mashaba was  involved in business with Peetz previously.

Before she was dismissed from her mayoral committee position, Peetz and her office were sent a list of comprehensive questions. These were not responded to.


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