Johannesburg: A city on the Brink of collapse?

Joburg Crisis Alliance is outraged by the City of Joburg's secretive reappointment of Floyd Brink as city manager, flouting a court order

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06/12/2023 09:53:19

Johannesburg: A city on the Brink of collapse? 

The Joburg Crisis Alliance is outraged by the council’s secretive reappointment of Mr Floyd Brink as the city manager for the City of Johannesburg, flouting the recent high court ruling that the City’s previous attempt to appoint him was unconstitutional, unlawful, and invalid. Why is the governing coalition in the City of Johannesburg’s council so desperate to have Floyd Brink as the city manager? 

Desperate measures by CoJ governing coalition

On 29 November, a spokesperson for mayor Kabelo Gwamanda’s office announced that the council “has today re-tabled and adopted its previously adopted report to appoint Mr Floyd Brink as the City Manager. This follows a judgement of the High Court which ordered that Council had failed to follow its own procedures in relation to urgent matters requiring Council consideration and approval.”

To fix that problem, the closed council meeting “resolved to re-table the report on the appointment of the City Manager and to ratify the areas identified by the Court as rendering the appointment unlawful, invalid and unconstitutional.” This report has not been made public.

The Joburg Crisis Alliance is astonished that the council thinks it can fix its blatant trampling over procedures by retrospectively ratifying its own illegal behaviour.

We note that Brink’s reappointment did not appear on the council agenda for Wednesday’s meeting (29 November), which indicates an intention to avoid any challenge to its deliberation during the closed session that dealt with this item. 

The high court judgment of 7 November which found that the council’s appointment of Brink was unlawful, outlines the chaotic and questionable way in which the council operated. 

“In December 2021, the law firm ENSafrica was appointed by the City’s Group Head of Legal Contracts to investigate certain transactions and non-compliance with approval processes. Mr Brink was potentially implicated in these investigations in his capacity as Acting City Manager,” noted the court.

On 13 January 2022, the City advertised the city manager position. On 22 January, ENSafrica released its report which found financial misconduct in two transactions, implicated Brink and recommended further investigation. Only two months later, a report notifying council of the allegations of gross misconduct and negligence against Brink in the ENSafrica report was tabled in council.

The council decided to appoint another legal firm to investigate the allegations against Brink; Mothle Jooma Sabdia (MJS) was appointed and submitted a report on 29 July 2022.

By August 2022, more than six months after the job was advertised, the City’s top candidate was no longer available and Brink, the second candidate, had not passed the vetting requirements. The job was readvertised.

MJS submitted further reports on its investigation. Brink complained his appointment was being unlawfully obstructed.

On 22 February 2023, the council was told that MJS had exonerated Brink. In that meeting, the council decided to rescind its resolution in August 2022 to readvertise the job and authorised the mayor to “apply corrective measures pertaining to Mr Brink as a matter of urgency”, said the court.

The next day, the council resolved to hire Brink as city manager with a five-year contract.

His appointment was challenged in court by the Democratic Alliance, resulting in the court ruling that it was unlawful.

The Joburg Crisis Alliance believes that the appointment of the city manager – a crucial position – was deliberately drawn out at the expense of city governance to enable the current coalition government to get their preferred candidate, Brink, into the position.

We note also that in June 2023, the City announced that is Group Forensics and Investigation Service’s powers would be handed over to Brink.

Attack on the Judiciary

With reference to the high court’s dismissal of its appeal, the office of the mayor went on to say: “The City still believes the High Court failed to independently and without bias, consider the valid and substantial legal arguments presented before it on the process enlisted by Council in approving the report to appoint the City Manager in February 2023.”

The Joburg Crisis Alliance is further appalled by the City's response to the judgement. The council may not like the court’s dismissal of its application for leave to appeal – the court said its proposed appeal “bears no prospects of success” – but the way to deal with that is to file an application for leave to appeal with the Supreme Court of Appeal, not to simply publicly announce that the court was wrong, dismiss the judgment and hijack the council processes. Better still, the council should take an honest look at its own behaviour, admit it failed badly, comply with the court order, re-advertise the city manager job, and look for a competent candidate with unquestionable ethics.

The arrogance – and desperation to appoint a favoured candidate, as well as an attack on the judiciary – should be cause for great concern by residents of the City. It raises some very disturbing questions. Are there dubious contracts awaiting signature of the city manager? Are there questionable payments awaiting sign-off that cannot wait? Are there far-reaching investigations in the city manager’s office that need to be withdrawn? Why is the council so desperate to keep Floyd Brink despite a clear court judgment?

Need for the SIU to investigate all contracts awarded signed off by Brink as the City Manager

We are concerned that contracts of possible dubious legality may be on the horizon.

We call for the President to proclaim, as a matter of urgency, a Special Investigating Unit investigation into the circumstances of Brink’s appointment and all decisions and authorisations made by him as city manager, including those after his questionable reappointment.

Any losses which the City now suffers due to any decisions made or authorised by Brink, including contracts signed and fruitless legal cases, should be claimed from the councillors who voted in favour of rehiring him in their personal capacities, and they should face charges.

Ongoing poor governance

This is a City administration which has shown repeated and increasing failure to govern. Even if Brink had been legally appointed, this would not be a track record worthy of a reappointment.

At three summits convened by the Joburg Crisis Alliance, residents have ventilated their frustrations at service delivery in the City. Events surrounding the reappointment of the city manager and daily occurrences of poor governance further amplifies the call made by the Joburg Crisis Alliance to the President to urgently intervene in the city.

Issued by the Joburg Crisis Alliance

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA)

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

The Johannesburg Inner City Partnership

Action for Accountability

Defend Our Democracy

Image of Floyd Brink: City of Joburg; Joburg skyline: OUTA