Mmusi Maimane defends Joburg mayor amid Jolidee Matongo 'nationality' criticism

12 August 2021 - 10:00
By cebelihle bhengu AND Cebelihle Bhengu
One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has weighed in on the criticism. File photo.
Image: Veli Nhlapo One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has weighed in on the criticism. File photo.

One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has lashed out at xenophobic comments made against newly-elected Johannesburg mayor Jolidee Matongo. 

The announcement of Matongo as the new mayor was met with calls for him to go after he reportedly revealed in his acceptance speech before the city council on Tuesday that he is a son of a Zimbabwean immigrant. 

Maimane said Matongo was born in SA, adding that critics should engage him on his ideas rather than on his perceived “questionable nationality”.

You can engage people on their ideas, on their track record of delivery as leaders, on their political choices. But xenophobia, that’s not acceptable. Not today or any other day,” Maimane tweeted on Wednesday.

Attempts by TimesLIVE to get further comment from Maimane were unsuccessful at the time of publishing this story. Any comment will be included once received.

City of Joburg speaker Nonceba Molwele clarified in a media briefing on Tuesday that Matongo is not a foreign national.

“There's a perception out there that the executive mayor is not a citizen. I want to put it into perspective that the executive mayor has been born and bred in the country, in Johannesburg in particular,” said Molwele who also explained Matongo's struggle credentials. 

“At an early age, he fought for the liberation of our people. He has been in different structures that fought for the liberation of the citizens and the nation of SA. He has been in the youth structures, he has served. He is not a migrant, he is born of a migrant, as he said that he is a son of a migrant.”

Molwele also explained that Matongo's father was a legal migrant. 

The mayor said his father was buried at the Avalon cemetery. 

Matongo is the former MMC for finance in the metro and was elected unopposed to replace Geoff Makhubo, who succumbed to complications related to Covid-19 last month. 

Maimane was not the only one to come to Matongo's defence.

Here are some of the responses online to the backlash over his appointment: