Tshwane City manager Moeketsi Mosola, Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa and speaker Katlego Mathebe entered into settlement negotiations over a Labour Court dispute despite a Tshwane City council resolution that specifically excludes the possibility.
The Labour Court dispute stems from a report by law firm Bowmans into the GladAfrica tender, which was supposed to be tabled in council last year as part of former mayor Solly Msimanga's efforts to have Mosola suspended. The tabling of the report was interdicted in the Labour Court last year at Mosola's behest.
Talks to settle the matter out of court have been ongoing for about two months, News24 understands.
But the minutes of two crucial meetings at the beginning of Mokgalapa's term show why the mayor's involvement in the talks is strange, at best.
Msimanga resigned at the end of January. When Mokgalapa replaced him, he reportedly said he could "fix the GladAfrica mess" in a week.
The GladAfrica contract was a sprawling project management consultancy agreement in which GladAfrica essentially ran the City's capital expenditure budget, allegedly at an ever-increasing cost to the City. Mosola approved the contract and defended it for months.
The Auditor-General and Bowmans investigators found the procurement process irregular.
The City paid GladAfrica nearly R500m by the time the parties agreed to part ways and it owed GladAfrica an additional nearly R95m, council minutes show.
The February 20, 2019 mayoral committee (Mayco) meeting, which the new mayor chaired, had on its agenda the most critical and contentious issue of the last two years: How to put GladAfrica to bed, once and for all.
Like an albatross around his neck, the issue weighed Msimanga down, tainting the DA's first term as a minority government in the City of Tshwane.
At the February 20 meeting, the Mayco resolved, among other things, to terminate the GladAfrica tender by mutual consent and to start settlement talks over the Labour Court case. When Mokgalapa presented the Mayco resolutions to council on February 28, he made a few amendments.
One of these was to delete the resolution about settlement talks. The final council resolution is purposefully silent on negotiation talks, council minutes show.
And yet, that same day, correspondence shows that negotiations about possible settlement talks went ahead anyway.
Mokgalapa did not explain this apparent contradiction when asked about it this week. He said the issue was "sub judice as it is still in court". But he confirmed that the parties were talking to each other.
"The engagement(s) are happening between lawyers of the Mayor, speaker and City manager and are not concluded, and are ongoing. The purpose of the discussions are about the status of the Bowmans report, and reasons why the report was interdicted, and whether to continue with Bowmans report," he said.
In October last year, Mosola obtained an urgent interdict, stopping the tabling of the Bowmans report in council.
News24 revealed this week that the City has been covering Mosola's legal fees.
The Bowmans report formed part of Msimanga's efforts to have Mosola suspended over the GladAfrica issue, but the Labour Court stopped that process from going ahead.
In November, as the full application was due to be heard, Tshwane chief operating officer James Murphy intervened, seeking to be admitted as a friend of the court. Murphy took issue with the fact that Mosola, in his affidavit, said Murphy was involved in the GladAfrica contract. Murphy said he was not.
The matter has been unresolved since then, and the EFF and the ANC used the "sub judice" nature of the case to save Mosola from another suspension attempt at a council meeting on January 31.
It is not clear what the terms of the settlement might entail. None of the parties would comment on the issue this week.
Mosola's attorney, Leslie Cohen, confirmed to News24 on Wednesday afternoon that the parties had engaged in talks with a view to prevent further litigation, and that the process got under way sometime in early March.
Correspondence seen by News24 indicates that the discussions were held "with a view to possibly settling the current Labour Court dispute".
Mokgalapa added that he referred the GladAfrica issue to the Municipal Public Accounts Committee and the Audit and Performance Committee at the municipality. He said he also established a financial disciplinary board - an "independent body that investigates financial misconduct of senior managers".
"Upon receiving the APC report, I will apply my mind the on steps ahead. I am empowered as a mayor with powers delegated to me as per the Constitution. I am also receiving legal counsel and advice," he said.
He said the city's residents and the council would be informed once this process was resolved.
On Thursday, the ANC in Tshwane issued a statement saying it would support Mosola's suspension if it was done in a procedurally correct way. The ANC said it was concerned that Mokgalapa was going to set up the "Financial Misconduct Board" to investigate GladAfrica, as it was not independent. This is an apparent reference to the financial disciplinary board.
The City and Mosola did not respond to questions.