Tshwane council speaker Makwarela tells story of the dark times after he was ousted by the ANC

The ANC 'destroyed my life. In a space of two months, I lost everything. I lost my two houses and my cars because of them'.


After being pushed out of the ANC by his fellow comrades in 2012, the party he joined in his university days in the ’90s, Dr Murunwa Makwarela finds himself back in the capital’s metro – but this time taking the big seat, as the newly elected speaker of the City of Tshwane. Sitting for his first formal interview after his appointment last week, Makwarela, the Congress of the People’s (Cope)regional chair, also the party’s only member in the city’s council, exuded boldness, gratitude and passion. Raised by a strict and orderly father, who was a prison warder, and a soft-spoken…

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After being pushed out of the ANC by his fellow comrades in 2012, the party he joined in his university days in the ’90s, Dr Murunwa Makwarela finds himself back in the capital’s metro – but this time taking the big seat, as the newly elected speaker of the City of Tshwane.

Sitting for his first formal interview after his appointment last week, Makwarela, the Congress of the People’s (Cope)
regional chair, also the party’s only member in the city’s council, exuded boldness, gratitude and passion. Raised by a strict and orderly father, who was a prison warder, and a soft-spoken and quiet mother with four other siblings in Cullinan, Makwarela was a top-achieving pupil.

After moving to Venda in 1976, aged four, his schooling career started early when he insisted on following his siblings to school a year later. He was enrolled into the then Sub A (Grade 1) at Tshitereke Primary School in Ha-Muhuma village and would walk 6km every day to and from school, barefooted on gravel roads.

“I am told I was one of the brightest children at the school. I was very known. My father was an ardent, astute and strict man. He insisted we go to school and wear an ironed uniform. He had a big voice and taught us to speak up while maintaining eye contact with him. He would beat the stupidity out of you if you didn’t do things by the book.

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“We were all bright kids. My father is the one who taught me mathematics, how to add and subtract and divide. He inspired me to study science.”

After achieving the top pupil position matriculating at age 17 in 1989 at Mbilwi Secondary School – achieving 100%
for mathematics – he graduated with a bachelor of science in botany and zoology from the University of Venda in 1994. A scholarship enabled him to do his honours degree at University of Natal.

While a member of the South African Students Congress (Sasco), he spent time with Panyaza Lesufi – later to become the Gauteng education MEC – at the same university. His passion for politics was ignited by an experience with police in the United States. At the time, he was doing his PhD research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Institute in Missouri.

“I was going to campus and waiting for a bus on a Saturday. Before I knew it, I heard sirens and I was surrounded
by white police officers with guns. They wanted to arrest me. They said there had been a burglary and I am a suspect. I showed them my visa. I was heavily surrounded and it was very scary.

“I even missed my bus and my experiments were in incubators. I was so furious and so angry. I was so brave and I told the police to take me to campus because I missed my bus. Guess what? They chased the bus and stopped it for me to get on.”

His career started upon his return to South Africa, as an academic and researcher in cassava genetic engineering
at Wits University, where he developed a vaccine for a virus which attacked the plant. He proceeded to the Agricultural Research Council, to be the first head of the council’s gene banks. His expertise found him appointed by
the City of Tshwane and with no political connections at the time, he headed the agriculture and environment management department between 2007 and 2012.

He assembled a team of scientists to establish bylaws and policies, which are now being adopted by the metro. This
is when he established the now famous point in the capital, the landscaping at the Fountains Circle, ahead of the Fifa World Cup.

He introduced a policy of at least two parks for each ward and improved the state of Burgers Park and Magnolia Dell
Park in Tshwane. But 2012 was a year of doom for Makwarela. He resigned from the municipality following what he calls a “purge” by ANC members under the then mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa. It was also the year he lost his mother.

“I want to be very honest. I was purged in the city. Pressure was applied on Ramokgopa to get rid of me because I was blocking them from getting tenders.

“I guess I was too powerful. But that was the rumour at that time – that I am so strict. I wanted things to be done by the book.

“I was pushed out despite all the trophies and awards I had won for the City of Tshwane. Including an award from
Fifa for being the cleanest city during the 2010 World Cup. So I decided to resign because I knew they would not renew my contract,” said Makwarela.

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Makwarela was charged with dereliction of duty and insubordination by the city, despite his great performance.

“That is ANC for you. I hate it with all of my guts and everything. It destroyed my life. In a space of two months, I lost
everything. I lost my two houses and my cars because of them. That is why I left the ANC – it is evil. And that is when the city started to decay. My mother also died. 2012 was the most horrible year of my life… It was tough.”

But six months later, he was approached to head the Tahal Group, an Israeli water supply company, to be the
CEO that serviced the SADC region. That same year, he received a calling.

“I had seen Jesus Christ. I heard his voice. And I understood why I was persecuted. I was trained properly and graduated as a minister of the gospel. I am ordained and my spiritual title is Apostle.”

Makwarela is now back in the metro council. He was appointed unopposed to take the speaker’s seat after Katlego Matheba stepped down to become a member of mayoral committee.

“I was not supposed to come back here. I was done and dusted with the city. But God brought me back here.”

rorisangk@citizen.co.za

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