Johannesburg – Just a day into the job new mayor of Joburg Kabelo Gwamanda is facing allegations that he may have been part of a “funeral investment” scam.
An audio recording doing the rounds claims Gwamanda and his partner only identified as Mduduzi used to run an “investment and funeral scheme called ‘iThemba Lama Africa’“.
In the recording, a person claims “people were paying every month” until the pair – Gwamanda and Mduduzi – “disappeared with the money”.
Reacting to the allegations, losing mayoral candidate and former Johannesburg mayor, Dr Mpho Phalatse, on Saturday expressed her dismay.
“The People of Joburg deserve a mayor they can trust, not a swindler or a scammer,” said Dr. Phalatse.
Gwamanda was sworn in as mayor soon after he was elected on Friday.
Gwamanda swore that he “will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and will obey, respect, and uphold the Constitution and all other laws of the republic.”
Dr. Phalatse said: “It was, however, concerning that there has since been damning information circulating about Cllr Kabelo Gwamanda, which cast aspersions on whether he could be trusted with such responsibilities including overseeing the more than R70 billion budget of the City of Johannesburg”.
The former mayor who was ousted through a no-confidence vote added: “The allegations circulating on social media suggest that our newly elected Executive Mayor may have flouted the financial laws of this country, swindled and scammed members of the public.
“‘It is alleged that Cllr Kabelo Gwamanda, through his entity ‘iThemba Lama Afrika‘, scammed innocent residents into investing in a funeral/investment scheme.
“However, the investors were left hanging dry when it was time to claim their benefits.
“It would be a tragedy for the 6 million citizens of Johannesburg to be subjected to such questionable and dubious leadership.”
Dr. Phalatse said it was for these reasons that her party the Democratic Alliance in Johannesburg “will be bringing these allegations to the attention of the South African Police Service for further investigation along with a victim of this scheme”‘
She said the DA believes that the mayor deserves an opportunity to clear his name if he is to be trusted by the public.
“Hence, we suggest that the Executive Mayor must, in less than 48 hours, take the public into his confidence by holding a public media briefing to provide clarity and assure the public that he will not interfere with this investigation,” said Dr. Phalatse.
“The people of Johannesburg deserve a mayor they can trust. They need reassurance that Cllr Gwamanda will live true to the letter and spirit of the oath that he signed and swore publicly.”
Although Mayor Gwamanda could not be immediately reached for comment by The Bulrushes, the Al Jama-ah party, said he had undergone an internal vetting process and nothing adverse came up.
Gwamanda is a Councillor of the minority Al Jama-ah party. He was elected mayor, with the backing of the African National Congress (ANC) and Economic Freedom Fighters caucuses.
Al Jama-ah leader Ganief Hendricks accused Dr. Phalatse of “sour grapes” after “our Councilor Gwamanda” beat her in the elections for mayor.
Al Jama-ah also said Gwamanda was vetted by the ANC and no anomalies were picked up.
EWN quotes Hendricks as saying: “I was given the assurance by the SG [Secretary General] of the ANC and they did due diligence on him, now I don’t know whether they used national intelligence on him.”