Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo dies of Covid-19

Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo died at the age of 53 on Friday from health complications related to Covid-19, having been admitted in hospital last Saturday.

The City of Johannesburg confirmed Makhubo’s death, saying his family had asked for privacy “as they process the untimely passing of one of their own” and urged mourners not to gather outside his home. 

Makhubo announced on 19 June that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and was under self-quarantine. A week later, the city of Johannesburg said in a post on Twitter that the mayor had been admitted to hospital.

In a statement on Friday, the MEC for human settlements, urban planning, cooperative governance and traditional affairs in Gauteng, Lebogang Maile, expressed his sadness about Makhubo’s death.

“Mayor Makhubo dies at a time when the City of Johannesburg was accelerating service delivery in communities, especially in poor and working-class communities,” he said.

“This is a huge blow for local government not only in Johannesburg, but provincially as a whole. He was [a] very disciplined and committed servant, who was dedicated to the service of the people.”

On Thursday acting city manager Floyd Brink paid tribute to fallen colleagues after the council announced that 76 municipal officials had died due to the coronavirus.

“These 76 officials were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers to scores of families. They were colleagues who also played a key role in ensuring that service delivery is indeed accelerated for our residents. They were not just numbers,” said Brink.

Before being elected mayor in 2019, Makhubo served as Johannesburg’s mayoral committee member for finance for 10 years. He ascended to the top job of the country’s richest city (according to a 2020 New World Wealth and AfrAsia Bank report) when he replaced the Democratic Alliance mayor, Herman Mashaba, who now heads the new political party, ActionSA.

Makhubo’s tenures as finance head and then mayor were marred by a series of allegations relating to corruption and shady tenders. 

Reporting on an ongoing investigation into state capture, the Daily Maverick quoted evidence leaders as saying Makhubo took payments from the information technology company, EOH, as reward for city tenders. 

But Makhubo maintained his innocence during his testimony in May before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, saying he had no influence over city contracts when he was finance boss.

Makhubo was set to lead his ANC party’s campaign in Johannesburg ahead of local government elections.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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