OBITUARY: Geoff Makhubo — a respected, tainted veteran politician
Johannesburg mayor and ANC stalwart Moloantoa Geoffrey Makhubo, who died of Covid-19 related complications on Friday, was an often controversial figure who garnered both respect and mistrust during a long political career.
Makhubo, a veteran politician, was elected mayor of Johannesburg in December 2019 amid allegations that his company, Molelwane Consulting, may have earned as much as R30m in fees from a controversial contract Gupta-linked firm Regiments Capital won to look after the City of Johannesburg’s “sinking fund”, a fund of billions of rand set aside to meet the city’s future debt payments.
In return, Makhubo was to “maintain ... strategic relationships” with the city.
Makhubo, who had previously served as finance MMC for the city from 2011 to 2019, was elected mayor by a landslide number of votes after serving DA mayor Herman Mashaba decided to quit.
His election sparked a Twitter war between him and the outgoing mayor, who said to Makhubo, “Orange overalls will suit you — your day in court is coming,” in apparent reference to the corruption scandal which was then under investigation.
The EFF also took issue with the new mayor, with the party’s then-deputy president Floyd Shivambu saying, “We are not going to support the government of Makhubo because he is not trustworthy”.
However, the mayor hit back at Mashaba, saying he was “a fool” who “ruined our city”.
Makhubo was born in Soweto on February 18 1968. He earned a bachelor of commerce degree from Wits University in 1990 and later completed a management advancement programme at Wits Business School in 1997. He also earned a certificate for leadership in local governance from the University of Cape Town.
At the time of his election to mayor, he was studying for a master's degree at Wits.
Makhubo was the co-president of the Metropolis Global Funds for Cities’ Development (FMDV). His main task was to assist cities faced with critical service delivery needs by creating alternative sources of funding for them and building bankable projects.
He was actively involved with the ANC branches in the anti-apartheid struggle and served as the original chairperson of the ANC Youth League. He would later become the party’s regional treasurer before rising to become the party’s regional chair in 2018.
He was appointed the ANC’s caucus leader in the Johannesburg city council the same year, paving his way to nomination as the mayor following Mashaba’s resignation.
Makhubo had made a point of being active and visible during the pandemic and in mid-June was seen hiking in the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in Kibler Park, Gauteng.
In an opinion piece in Daily Maverick in June, Makhubo also lambasted people who yearned for an idealised version of Johannesburg's past.
“There is hardly an area of life where someone does not romanticise our past,” he wrote. “Neighbourhoods, universities, schools and even places of worship were supposedly 'better' when they were exclusive privileges of white people.”
He admitted that the city needed to improve in every department. This was because “these are challenges of modern cities that, unlike in our past, serve all the people and not just a privileged few”.
In his time off, Makhubo, was an ardent Orlando Pirates fan.
He was self-isolating at home, having tested positive for Covid-19 in late June. He was admitted to hospital on July 3 after his condition worsened.
Makhubo leaves his wife Dikeledi Makhubo and two daughters.
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