An absolutely insane story has been unfolding over the last few weeks in South African local politics, and I have to share.
Background: the City of Tshwane is the local authority that governs the national capital Pretoria and surrounds, a conurbation of over 3 million people. Since the last election in 2021, the city council has been hung with no overall majority, so the government is based on unstable coalitions.
After the resignation of the previous mayor, on 28 February the city council elected as the new mayor a Dr Murunwa Makwarela. A mere week later, it was revealed that he had been declared bankrupt in 2015. In South Africa an unrehabilitated bankrupt cannot hold public office, so the city manager asked Makwarela for a certificate from the court showing that he had been rehabilitated (i.e. the bankruptcy terminated). He didn’t provide the certificate, so on Tuesday this week the city manager declared him ineligible and his seat vacant.
Makwarela insisted he had been rehabilitated, that he was fully eligible for office, and that he would sue the city manager for defamation, and so on and on. Oddly, he didn’t produce the certificate that would prove his rehabilitation. Not until yesterday, when he sent a supposed certificate of rehabilitation to the city manager, and was consequently reinstated as mayor. Except that the certificate was a forgery. Not even a good forgery; it was pathetically bad. It had the wrong name for the court that supposedly issued it, and the signature of a judge who didn’t even serve on that court at the time it was supposedly issued.
This morning, the registrar of the court issued a statement saying that the certificate was a forgery (duh). At 12:10 Makwarela tweeted saying that he “remained focused on his work, serving the residents”. At 12:30 he announced he was not talking to the media because of “a family bereavement”. And then at 2pm he announced his resignation. Meanwhile he is under investigation by the DPCI (our sort of “FBI”-equivalent) for forgery.
(This abbreviated story doesn’t even get into the two different resignation letters from the previous mayor, the polygraph machines to find out who voted against their own party, the fact that Makwarela represents a party that only got 0.2% of the vote, and so much more madness. Our politics is tragicomic.)
I can’t even begin to understand how someone could think that they could get away with a pathetically obvious forgery when they were already under intense scrutiny from their political opposition. It boggles the mind.