An internal investigation into the matter is also reportedly under way while the author and activist remains on full pay.

In a statement circulating widely on social media and other platforms on Tuesday, the Office of the Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni, Mzwandile Masina, said they had issued the mayor’s speechwriter, Malaika Mahlatsi, with a notice of intention to suspend her employment with the city for allegedly breaching their social media policy.

The well-known author, activist and presenter allegedly breached municipal policies requiring her to, among other things, always act in the best interest of the municipality and “in such a way that the credibility and integrity of the municipality are not compromised”.

“Personal use of social media” needed to be “conducted in a manner that indicates no link or association with the [City]”, the statement continued, but the city had the right to “take necessary steps should users make the use of social media in a manner that has a direct, indirect or potential impact on the CoE’s reputation or interests”.

The statement added that the mayor’s office had noted “with great concern” the circulation of “an alleged audio recording of Mahlatsi on social media, in which she claims that the executive mayor decreased the salaries of staff members in the municipality without consultation”.

They said the claims were untrue and “devoid of factuality”.

The statement by spokesperson Phakamile Mbengashe continued: “The Executive Mayor, upon deciding to donate 33% of his salary to the Solidarity Fund, consulted the Speaker of Council, Chief Whip, Members of the Mayoral Committee, the City Manager, the Group Chief Financial Officer and, all Heads of Department to encourage them to join himself and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to contribute to the fund.

“The above-mentioned elected public representatives and officials signed pledge forms authorising the City’s Department of Human Resources to deduct a portion of their salaries and redirect the donations to the Solidarity Fund.

“The Executive Mayor has no authority to decrease the salaries of municipal staff,” said Mbengashe.

Claims that Mahlatsi was “doing’” a PhD on behalf of the mayor were equally false.

“The Executive Mayor is currently in the early stage of preparing his research proposal for a Doctoral Degree in Philosophy.

“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,” said Mbengashe.

He said that in terms of Clause 16.3 of the CoE Disciplinary Procedure Collective Agreement, Mahlatsi would be placed on suspension with full pay and an internal investigation into the matter was currently under way.

The action came in the wake of Mahlatsi issuing a public statement denying accusations levelled against her by her former lover Katlego Mamabolo, the chief director at Rectitude Private Prosecutions.

Among those were that she had been writing a PhD dissertation for Masina, her employer.

She responded that Mamabolo must have been confused about the reason she had some of Masina’s academic material on her laptop, which she explained was only because she was reviewing a chapter for her boss, not actually writing it. She further challenged Mamabolo to produce the recorded audio evidence he claimed to have of her supposedly admitting to the academic fraud.

Mahlatsi is known by the pen name Malaika wa Azania. She published her first book in 2014, titled Memoirs of a Born Free.

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