Almost three years after Johannesburg hosted the Miss World pageant the municipality wants to silence its critics. It’s called on Thuli Madonsela to investigate claims of mismanagement, a political move not hiding the fact the city should have never hosted the event in the first place.
Saturday 12 December 2009 was a historic day for Gibraltar. “In unison Gibraltarians triumphantly cheered, with wild screams, and spontaneous applause they jumped out of their seats, filled with tears of joy—an entire population realising a dream, proud that their representative at Miss World had achieved what everyone had always felt was simply out of reach,” reported the Gibraltar Chronicle.
Kaiane Aldorino won the country’s first Miss World crown at the Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand. “A Gibraltarian once again puts Gibraltar on the map!” declared the Rock’s chief minister.
For the hosts, the Miss World contest has been remembered for a different reason. On 11 December 2009, Mail & Guardian exposed allegations of financial mismanagement in the City of Johannesburg. Rumours of corruption have surrounded the contract to host the beauty pageant in the years since.
The municipality tried to silence its critics on Monday by inviting the Public Protector to investigate its role in securing and financing the event. It has asked Thuli Madonsela to look into the bidding and procurement of rights for the pageant, the budgeting process and whether the city officials had the authority to sign the agreement.
The contract caused a stir when the Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC), a section 21 company, agreed in 2008 with World Awards Limited to host the 59th Miss World pageant, just as the Council was being downgraded by Moody’s for liquidity pressures.
The city said the pageant would cost R45-million, while the contract seen by Mail & Guardian indicated costs would reach R90-million. JTC agreed to pay a £6-million hosting fee and cover venue, accommodation, transport and make-up costs as well as a return trip for beauty queens from countries competing in the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Allegations the deal amounted to wasteful expenditure and involved corruption resurfaced in July when Council passed a resolution to develop a framework to deal with contract confidentiality clauses. The Municipal Public Accounts Committee has seen the Miss World contract but a confidentiality clause has prevented its further release.
Rubi Mathang, MMC for Economic Development, said multiple investigations have been conducted, but Mayor Parks Tau insisted they request the Public Protector to probe the deal.
“We thought the matter would be dead, buried and completed but it continues to enjoy attention in the media,” Mathang in a 6 August press conference.
Mathang said the city will co-operate fully with Madonsela and “in the interest of transparency” provide all relevant documents. “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.” The public protector’s office confirmed it received the council’s letter and will decide whether to investigate.
The ANC dominates the council, and Mathang accused other parties of using the Miss World pageant to manipulate the public and brew a storm over the confidentiality clause resolution. Opposition parties, however, are worried of a repeat of the Miss World mystery.
“The principle of the matter is that tomorrow we can decide which contracts are sensitive and which ones to put in the public space,” said DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane on the day the resolution was passed. “The great news was that for the first time all the opposition parties agreed on one issue together.” On the same day, all opposition parties walked out of the council chamber over an ANC member’s claim the DA used a racial slur.
Calling on the public protector to investigate an issue in which one is implicated is become a handy political move. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe did it when implicated with his partner Gugu Mtshali in soliciting a R104-billion bribe.
It seems to silence the pundits. Letting Madonsela audit your accounts is like welcoming a Stephen Sackur interview; no one wants that sort of scrutiny if you’re in the wrong.
But don’t bank on a public protector’s report into the pageant just yet. First, her office must find it worthwhile to look into. Second, she’ll need access to the elusive information.
After almost three years of controversy, was hosting a competition that upholds Western values of beauty and judges contestants on how they can rock a bikini (the event which won Kaiane Aldorino the crown) really worth the trouble? Mathang explained that South Africa is a diverse country where some people enjoy slaughtering sheep and others enjoy pageants.
Gibraltar might buy that, but it doesn’t depend on the City of Johannesburg for basic services, nor would it care that the money used to host its win could have been used towards solving the diabolical billing crisis.
By Greg Nicolson for The Daily Maverick, Gibraltar, 8/6/2012