South Africa

Brink’s legal ruling sheds light on dubious leadership practices in Joburg

City manager Floyd Brink

While yesterday’s judgment invalidating the appointment of Floyd Brink as city manager does not automatically nullify his actions while in office, it may help unravel some dubious Joburg leadership practices.

In particular, the 18 September, 2023 letter from the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) chief executive to Brink recommending the closure of the metro centre should remain in the spotlight before the financially constrained City of Joburg commits to a R2 billion-plus reconstruction plan.

As mentioned in yesterday’s judgment, one of the reasons the applicants wanted Brink’s appointment declared invalid was that “he had been implicated in serious and potentially criminal conduct”.

We don’t need that type running South Africa’s richest city.

There is no publicly available engineer’s report declaring that vast expenditure on the metro centre is necessary.

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Any such report should be scrutinised by professionals capable of sniffing out overpricing and other ruses used by fat-cat comrades who get richer at ratepayers’ expense.

There has been no shortage of warnings by JPC about the condition of the building. This condition is due to the lack of maintenance by JPC.

In February 2020, JPC produced a presentation saying the metro centre had been “assessed by professionals for its safety, structural and infrastructure condition.

In each instance their report indicated that the building condition has deteriorated to a poor, noncompliant building in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”

The 2020 presentation recommended that the entire building be subject to total reconditioning and refurbishment, with certain sections being demolished and rebuilt, at an estimated cost of R835 780 752.

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Having skimmed through reports and presentations spanning several years, my impression is that these drastic conclusions are not substantiated by documented details.

There are indeed Occupational Health and Safety Act violations. Fire safety must be tightened.

Much electrical wiring needs attention. In one audio, a MMC can be heard expressing concern that ad hoc electrical contractors were being paid without providing compliance certification, which should be a requirement when spending public money on a city-owned asset.

Pages could be spent listing what’s wrong with the metro complex.

But it’s a leap from there to evacuating buildings where at least 4 000 city employees work(ed) and asking for billions of rands which cash-strapped Joburg cannot afford, for massive structural work which may not be necessary.

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As councillors, we are reminded daily of shortages at Joburg Water, City Power, Johannesburg Roads Agency, Pikitup, City Parks etc.

We should have been more effective in demanding scrutiny of the reasons for the closure of the metro centre.

The city manager should have asked for and shared a structural engineer’s report and a second opinion.

At last week’s noisy, chaotic council meetings held in the unsuitable Brixton Multipurpose Centre, some councillors did indeed shout: “Why are we here?” But requests for details were drowned out.

All of us – councillors, ratepayers, city employees, residents – have a right to explanations for this disruption and expense in an already dysfunctional city.

A structural engineer’s report should be publicly available and expert comment invited. Everything must be out in the open. We shouldn’t have to go to court to fix this crooked mess.

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