A contentious and potentially lucrative broadband contract valued at approximately R2.2 billion annually has become the epicentre of political strife within the City of Johannesburg, South Africa.
The focal point of this dispute revolves around an entity known as the Metropolitan Trading Company (MTC), which, surprisingly, is responsible for overseeing the city’s fibre infrastructure. The situation has caused a considerable deterioration in relations between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Patriotic Alliance (PA), two major regional political forces as reported by Eyewitness News.
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The MTC was originally under the purview of the economic development department but was subsequently shifted to the transport portfolio, placing it under the oversight of Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) Kenny Kunene. This move led to behind-the-scenes conflicts that escalated to the point where two MMCs came close to physical altercations over control of the broadband contract. Furthermore, the entity’s board experienced swift appointments and terminations within a span of just three months, adding to the turmoil.
Perhaps the most astonishing development occurred when the entire MTC was abruptly relocated to a different department during a late-night council meeting, shrouded in secrecy. This political turmoil underscores the fragility of the coalition between the ANC, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and the PA in Johannesburg.
Intrigue surrounds the sale of Johannesburg’s broadband infrastructure, with some individuals in the city expressing concerns about the transparency of the sale process and potential links between the service provider and the PA. Local politicians have described Johannesburg’s MTC as a significant source of revenue, yet it has largely operated under the radar, with its full potential remaining untapped.
This complex saga traces back to a 2019 decision to sell Johannesburg’s fibre infrastructure. Eyewitness News has obtained various documents that raise questions about the adequacy of public participation in the decision-making process and the financial model underpinning the project.
Dada Morero, the ANC’s regional chairman and finance MMC, tried to retain control of the MTC within the ANC’s sphere and away from the PA. However, his attempts proved futile when, in a late-night council session convened after his departure, a decision was made to transfer control to Kenny Kunene’s transport portfolio.
Gayton McKenzie of the PA acknowledged some connections to the prospective service provider poised to assume control of Johannesburg’s network but insisted that nothing untoward was transpiring. Instead, he characterised the entire ordeal as an internal dispute within the ANC.
Kenny Kunene declined to comment directly, claiming that there was a concerted effort to portray the PA negatively. He pledged to hold a media briefing to provide insight into the political dynamics surrounding the city’s valuable broadband contract.
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