City of Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina has finally responded to a claim that one of his staffers, writer and columnist Malaika Mahlatsi, is writing his PhD thesis.
Katlego Mamabolo, who runs a private prosecutions unit focusing on gender-based violence cases, made the claim in a series of Facebook posts on Sunday and Monday.
Earlier on Tuesday, Masina’s spokesperson Phakamile Mbengashe told Current Affairs ZA that the Mayor will not comment on “Facebook spats.” He added, “We have more important issues to deal with in the City.”
PhD research proposal
However, Masina’s office issued a statement later in the day saying he “is currently in the early stages of preparing his research proposal for a Doctoral degree in Philosophy.”
It added, “At no point has any individual authored or contributed to the contents of the research proposal, including anyone who was reviewing or proofreading the material. The Executive Mayor has and continues to adhere to the student code of conduct of the institution.”
Mamabolo had claimed that he had voice records of his phone calls with Mahlatsi to prove his allegation. Both he and Mahlatsi confirmed in Facebook posts that they had been romantically involved before breaking up acrimoniously.
Mahlatsi issued a public statement on Monday evening denying the PhD claim. She wrote, “I am a Geographer by qualification and know little about the subject matter that my boss is researching about, which is on local government.”
“It would be a Herculean task for me to write a credible dissertation on it, and this is why my intervention is solely at the level of commentary around the strength of the argument as well as grammatical and syntax issues,” she added.
Masina’s office also said it had served Mahlatsi with a notice of intention to suspend her “with full pay” in terms of its code of conduct and social media policy, pending an internal investigation.
The suspension relates to an alleged voice recording of Mahlatsi which Mamabolo posted on Facebook on Monday. In the recording, someone alleged to be Mahlatsi is heard saying Masina “decreased the salaries of staff members without consultation.”
The office termed the claim “untrue and devoid of factuality” and emphasised that the Mayor had consulted the City’s officials and elected public representatives.
They subsequently signed a pledge to donate a third of their salaries to the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent call. “The Executive Mayor has no authority to decrease the salaries of municipal staff,” the office added.
Mahlatsi authored Memoirs of a Born Free in 2014. She has been a columnist for a number of publications over the years, including Sunday Independent and Sowetan.