City wants probe into Jo’burg’s dodgy Miss World pageant

The announcement on Monday was made nearly three years after a Mail & Guardian investigation unearthed allegations of financial mismanagement surrounding the event's hosting.

"We had thought the matter would be dead and buried by now, but it continues to enjoy attention in the media," Ruby Mathang, member of the mayoral committee for economic development told reporters at City Chambers in Braamfontein.

"We thought it would be prudent to launch this investigation and we are hoping it will be conclusively dealt with."

The City originally claimed the pageant would cost R45-million to host, but an agreement shown to the M&G revealed it would cost at least double that figure.

In October 2008 Lindiwe Mahlangu-Kwele, chief executive of the Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC) signed an agreement with Graham Cooke of World Awards Limited (WAL), whereby JTC agreed a hosting fee of £6-million (then equivalent to roughly R73-million) for the event.

The JTC was still responsible for the logistical, travel and accommodation arrangements, which sent the bill to close on R90-million.

But, the bill was footed by the cash-strapped City of Johannesburg, as JTC is a section 21 company funded by the City.

At the time of the event, credit rating agency Moody's downgraded the City of Johannesburg's long-term credit rating, citing the "deteriorating liquidity position of Johannesburg and its already high level of gearing".

The story directly led to an attempt by Miss World Ltd to gag the M&G in the South Gauteng High Court.

The organisers of the Miss World pageant sought to force the newspaper to remove two stories relating to the investigation from its website.

Cooke appeared to be acting as the Miss World Ltd agent in South Africa, but the relationship between the two remains unclear with neither party clarifying the issue.

"We are confident the protector will deal will this matter sufficiently, and ensure a thorough investigation of all allegations. Nobody will be left out of the investigations and any wrongdoing will be punished," Mathang said.

 

In the proposed investigation, the City aims to uncover any wrongdoing in:

  • bidding for Miss World 2009 pageant
  • the procurement of the rights to and budgeting for the pageant; and 
  • the issuing of authority to sign all agreements relating to the event.

"The City does not take these allegations lightly and wants to ensure that its reputation is not tarnished. We still hope to host such events in the future," Mathang added.

The decision to involve the protector also follows allegations by the Democratic Alliance that the City was attempting to developing its own secrecy laws. The opposition staged a walkout of the Johannesburg legislature after ANC-aligned councillors allegedly proposed the drafting of rules which would allow the City to classify certain documents as "sensitive", making them unavailable for public disclosure.

The DA claimed the only motivation for implementing the rules was to cover up corruption and maladministration directly linked to the hosting of the Miss World pageant.

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Nickolaus Bauer
Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.

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