/ 30 September 2022

Johannesburg has a new sheriff in town – ANC takes over from the DA

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Mpho Phalatse was ousted as mayor in a motion of no confidence on Friday.

The ANC has reclaimed the City of Johannesburg after its regional chairperson Dada Morero, a councillor in the metro, was elected mayor on Friday. 

Morero was nominated for the role after the Democratic Alliance walked out of a council meeting. His election came after DA mayor Mpho Phalatse was ousted in a motion of no confidence sponsored by ANC coalition partners the African Independent Congress. 

Out of the 270 seats in council, the meeting reached a quorum with 145 councillors registered to attend. The DA had rushed to the Johannesburg high court with an application to interdict the sitting on an urgent basis but this was struck off the roll with costs.

Phalatse was ousted by 139 votes as the DA’s partner the Inkatha Freedom Party abstained from voting. This was just a day after Cope councillor Colleen Makhubele was elected as Johannesburg speaker.

Makhubele, and by extension Cope, had defected to the ANC coalition after a breakdown in relations with the DA. She was one of the councillors who voted against DA speaker Vasco da Gama who was also booted out in a motion of no confidence earlier this month.

Coalition partners were frustrated with Da Gama when he moved to force the council to vote for committee chairs during coalition negotiations shortly after the 2021 local government elections. The negotiations were meant to determine which parties would chair committees and which portfolios would be handled by the DA’s coalition partners in the mayoral committee.

Makhubele — then the council chair of chairs — called for an extraordinary council sitting to elect a new speaker shortly after Da Gama’s removal, but this was thwarted by the DA and coalition partners, who went to court. The DA argued that Makhubele had no lawful authority to call a council sitting.

The court found in the DA’s favour and a special sitting to elect a new speaker was called by the city manager, where Makhubele was elected speaker, on Wednesday. 

Leaders from the DA coalition — which includes ActionSA, Freedom Front Plus, Inkatha Freedom Party, African Christian Democratic Party and Cope — had been scrambling to quell dissent among their members in an effort to save Phalatse from the motion in council.

In her failed application for the interdiction, Phalaste said she had not been alerted of a sitting to hold a motion of no confidence as the matter was not stated with the programing committee. 

The DA’s tense relationship with its coalition partners could have a ripple effect in other Gauteng metros – Ekurhuleni and Tshwane. The partners have accused the blue party of acting as a big brother and undermining their role in the relationship.

As reported recently by the Mail & Guardian, the DA’s coalition partners would have opted to abstain on a motion of no confidence against Tshwane mayor Randall Williams. The motion was thwarted after the coalition reached an agreement to investigate Williams after ActionSA, Economic Freedom Fighters and the ANC accused him of seeking an unsolicited bid to help fix the city’s energy challenges. 

Another factor which could add to the DA’s woes is the party’s reluctance to have the smaller parties take positions in municipal council troikas. 

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba had championed the call for the smaller parties to occupy speaker positions as part of the coalition agreement. The DA rejected this in an internal memorandum seen by the M&G. In the letter to the party’s technical task team, federal council chair Helen Zille said a review of the coalition agreement could not be done on an ad hoc basis. She said the motivation behind the proposal to change the composition of municipal government in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni was political.

“First, as a matter of political consideration, any re-opening of negotiations regarding

government configuration will introduce significant uncertainty and delays in municipal

government and service delivery. The current government configuration is a result of

weeks, and in some cases, months of negotiations,” she wrote.

“The municipalities concerned are hotly contested and governed in tumultuous political conditions. To disturb the current functionality of these municipalities, only to appease political ambitions, could undermine months of hard work, undertaken by all parties, to achieve a functioning government in these municipalities.

“It will result in renewed horse-trading and haggling over positions, potentially involving seven different parties, across the three Gauteng Metros. Ultimately, service delivery and functionality will suffer if the coalition agreements are re-opened to negotiation.”

This could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in an already fractured coalition agreement. 

The newly elected Johannesburg mayor promised to turn around the city’s financial crisis, saying its entities were financially on their knees. 

“Ten months of golden promise has taken us a hundred years back … We will fix the financial position of Johannesburg,” Morero said, taking a potshot at Phalaste’s administration. 

He said the city would immediately review and restructure its balance sheet to put it in a solid financial position and the new administration would collaborate with financial institutions to bring debt to an affordable and sustainable level and improve its credit rating to reduce the cost of borrowing. 

Morero said part of his plan would include a sustainable energy strategy to ensure the delivery of power. 

“The city must utilise new, alternative energy sources together with storage sources to reduce load-shedding in Johannesburg … We will impact load-shedding aggressively,” he said, adding that it would ensure an energy mix designed to relieve the pressure on Eskom. 

“Today is a good day. It is a good day to fall in love again with the city of Johannesburg.  

Thank you to the political parties that used their consciousness to create a historical change in Johannesburg,” Morero said. 

“Smaller parties, you must never be undermined, you earned your seat in council and your voice must be heard … We can now say we are now home and we will create a home for all to enjoy.”