Musical chairs at top metros

Only two of the country’s six top metros are likely to retain their mayors after the local government elections in May. The two mayors, Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa of Tshwane and Mondli Gungubele of Ekurhuleni, were appointed only a few months ago after their predecessors were redeployed and will be kept for continuity.

The City of Johannesburg’s Amos Masondo and eThekwini’s Obed Mlaba have already confirmed that they are not returning. Masondo has served two full terms as a mayor and Mlaba three.

The six metros are highly contested because of the political and financial clout they wield, sometimes even more powerful than the office of the provincial premiers. Gauteng houses three of the country’s metros.

Ekurhuleni Metropolitan
The current mayor, Mondli Gungubele, is the only mayor who is not leading a list of nominees in his municipality. He came fourth in the branch nominations. The top spot is occupied by Robert Mashego, the deputy president of the transport workers’ union, Satawu.

Critics say Gungubele was not popular in the region even when he was appointed last year, after former mayor Ntombi Mekgwe was roped into the provincial cabinet.

But that won’t stifle his chances of leading Ekurhuleni. Sources in the Gauteng ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) told the Mail & Guardian that Gungubele is “the PEC’s man” for Ekurhuleni.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metro
This metro will be hotly contested, with the Democratic Alliance saying the party stands a good chance of winning the metro. The DA will choose its candidate for Nelson Mandela Bay Metro between the party’s deputy shadow minister of home affairs, Annette Lovemore, and two other leaders, Leon de Villiers and Jonathan Lawack.

An ANC insider in Port Elizabeth told the M&G that violent behaviour at ANC meetings in local branches was an indication of people’s discontent and might cost the party votes.

Incumbent Zanoxolo Wayile is a possible ANC contender for mayoral candidate in the metro, but he is said to have “bad blood” with regional chairperson Nceba Faku, which may reduce his chances.

Tshwane Metropolitan
Kgosientso Ramokgopa commands enough support to retain his position, but it might not be smooth sailing for the province’s youngest mayor.

A Tshwane municipality source close to the ANC regional leadership says those opposing Ramokgopa say he has lost touch with Tshwane politics. He resigned as a Tshwane councillor in 2005 and worked for the City of Johannesburg until last year, when he was appointed mayor.

“They feel they have served longer than him and they have got the right to assume the mayoral position,” said the source. There’s also the feeling that, at 35, Ramokgopa is too young for the position.

eThekwini Metropolitan
The frontrunner in Ethekwini is current speaker James Nxumalo, the provincial chairperson of the ANC’s ally, the South African Communist Party.

ANC sources in the municipality and the province say the position of a mayor had become “ceremonial” in the past eight years, with the real power lying with the extremely influential ANC structures in the region, largely attributed to the role of former regional chairperson John Mchunu, who died last year.

Mchunu’s consolidation of power meant that his de facto representative in the municipality was the municipal manager, a position held by Mike Sutcliffe, but sources in the ANC say that Sutcliffe could also be on his way out.

Cape Town Metro
The Cape Town metro has been in the hands of the opposition DA and the party aims to retain it. Its advantage is that it governs the Western Cape, giving the DA enough political power to win the metro with ease.

The frontrunner is provincial minister of social development, Patricia de Lille, whose party, the Independent Democrats, merged with the DA last year.

Incumbent mayor Dan Plato is said to have made too many mistakes in his term, whereas De Lille has wider appeal. Her image has been sharpened in the past few months by her social development work that put her directly in touch with voters.

The DA is set to announce its mayoral candidates at the end of March after an internal selection process.

Johannesburg Metropolitan
The head of the City of Johannesburg’s finance department, Parks Tau, who is endorsed by the ANC’s provincial leadership, is the preferred candidate to succeed Masondo.

He has been groomed for this position for many years, being one of the longest-serving councillors in the city.

Said an ANC PEC source: “He understands the city, he has always guided the mayor in his duties.”

His political clout is derived from being a PEC member and his popularity with ANC branches.

Other names being discussed for the position include Gauteng’s minister for finance, Mandla Nkomfe, but those in the city’s political circles say Tau is the strongest candidate.

Tau might, however, struggle in the light of his record in the city. Known as “the man behind the council’s bills”, he is facing criminal charges for violating the Municipal Act, laid by a group of residents from Blairgowrie for the faulty bills that have terrorised the municipality’s consumers and left many without electricity.

Mmanaledi Mataboge
Mandy Rossouw

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice.
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