The Gauteng provincial government has threatened to “intervene” if Wednesday’s meeting of the City of Johannesburg council fails to elect a new executive mayor to replace Herman Mashaba.
Premier David Makura said on Tuesday there would be interventions where there were “lapses in governance”, while human settlements, urban planning and co-operative governance MEC Lebogang Maile placed the city’s speaker, Vasco da Gama, on terms to ensure that the election goes ahead.
The warning came as the ANC appeared to be poised to take control of the city from the Democratic Aalliance-led coalition after the Economic Freedom Fighters decided to field its own mayoral candidate and terminate its arrangement with the DA. The parties, along with the Inkatha Freedom Party, have run Johannesburg since the 2016 local government elections, in which no party won an outright majority in the city.
The ANC, which took the largest number of votes in 2016, hopes to use the crisis created by the resignation of Mashaba last month to break the DA-coalition. It has been courting the IFP, which has five seats in the city, and is offering the mayorship of Abaqulusi local municipality in Zululand in return.
The EFF, which has 30 seats, has announced its intention to field its Johannesburg regional chairperson, Musa Novela, as mayor, rather than backing its former coalition partner’s Funzela Ngobeni, the current finance MMC.
In a letter to Da Gama on Tuesday, Maile said he remained “concerned” about the state of affairs in the city and instructed the speaker to meet the whips of all parties before the council meeting to prevent any further delay in the election taking place.
Maile said the meeting should “create convergence and achieve consensus on the conduct of the forthcoming council proceedings” and that the Electoral Commission of South Africa should be invited to observe proceedings and provide advice.
Last Thursday Da Gama made the adjournment, backed by the EFF, to allow council to secure a legal opinion as to whether the mayor should be elected by 50% plus one of the full 270 seat council or of the number of valid votes cast by councillors.
DA Gauteng provincial chairperson Mike Moriarty said the council would use the quorum of 50% plus one of all valid votes cast, rather than of all councillors. Moriarty said he expected the vote to go ahead with no hitches and denied claims by the ANC in the city that the DA would collapse the council meeting if things did not go in its favour.
“Our councillors will all be there and will all be voting for Ngobeni,” he said. “We are not going to collapse any meeting. We will not do that.”
Moriarty said they still expected the IFP to vote with the party because it had not indicated otherwise. He said the ANC’s selection of Geoff Makhubo, a former finance MMC embroiled in a R30-million scandal, might see some ANC councillors spoiling their votes, which could affect the outcome.
“There is a degree of unhappiness and embarrassment in the ANC caucus that they have put forward such a highly suspect candidate for mayor. There may be a split in the ANC vote because of it,” he said.
Although Moriarty said the DA still expected the support of the IFP, its leadership nationally is understood to be in favour of backing the ANC — unlike its Johannesburg caucus, which is still happy to work with the DA.
IFP provincial secretary Alco Ngobese said the party’s national leadership would finalise whether it would back the ANC or the DA by the end of Tuesday.