South Africa

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

ANC crashes out of Joburg metro — DA’s Dr Mpho Phalatse becomes mayor of South Africa’s biggest city

Johannesburg's new mayor, Dr Mpho Phalatse. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

Mpho Phalatse, a councillor since 2016 and a mayoral committee member under Herman Mashaba, has a manifesto of critical items that need fixing.

At the end of a day of significant council losses for the ANC, the party crashed out of power in Johannesburg late on Monday, too, as the DA’s Dr Mpho Phalatse won the mayoral chains off the ANC candidate Mpho Moerane.

Phalatse won 144 votes to Moerane’s 121, becoming Johannesburg’s first woman mayor. It capped a day of upsets for the governing party. Its coalition plans splattered to an end in defeats in eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay and Ekurhuleni. The EFF voted with DA candidates while the IFP abandoned the ANC in eThekwini after the party tried to ram through the discredited Mxolisi Kaunda as mayor for a second term.

johannesburg mayor phalatse mashaba
ActionSA president Herman Mashaba confers with an EFF member at the City of Johannesburg’s inaugural sitting of the council for the 2021-2026 term of office at Brixton Multipurpose Centre on 22 November 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

The ANC’s Black Monday was capped as Phalatse took the chains after the ActionSA candidate Herman Mashaba stepped back from his demand that he be crowned executive mayor.

Mashaba was smarting after a weekend of tough negotiations with the DA, but said in a statement that the party had chosen country over party.

“We cannot betray this commitment to South Africans because of the petty party-political personality issues that have played out over the past 72 hours.

“Nowhere was this truer than in Johannesburg where my candidature for mayor, and the DA’s refusal to support the wishes of the multi-party agreement, was almost allowed to collapse these negotiations,” the party said. In a tweet, Mashaba said politics was about chess, not checkers.

While Mashaba’s start-up party voted for Phalatse in Johannesburg, it is not in a coalition with the DA in Johannesburg. Neither is the EFF, which also appeared to have voted with the DA in the city. Phalatse will have a rough ride because the DA has not reached a coalition agreement with the parties who voted for her. Her first order of business will be to create a stable government of local unity to drive through her manifesto.

johannesburg phalatse mayor
The City of Johannesburg’s inaugural sitting of council for the 2021-2026 term of office at Brixton Multipurpose Centre on 22 November 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

Johannesburg is in a state. Power and water systems are near to collapse and the 12,000km road network is dilapidated, while crime in the inner city is out of control and growing in double digits quarter on quarter. The city is still South Africa’s economic heartbeat and generates 15% of GDP.

Phalatse, a councillor since 2016 and a mayoral committee member under Mashaba, has a city manifesto of critical items that need fixing. Among the quick-win plans she wants to implement are:

  • A R20-billion investment in the city’s road network (the current budget is R1.6-billion/year);
  • To fix water leaks in 24 hours (they often go on for days);
  • To have potholes filled in within 72 hours of being reported (they go unfilled for months, some for years);
  • To reduce electricity outages — City Power has more than 420 power cuts a day;
  • A dedicated Anti Land Invasion Unit;
  • A dedicated municipal court to prosecute by-law infringements and to deal with cable theft;
  • Support for vulnerable residents, including homeless people’s shelters;
  • A food security plan with the private sector;
  • Upgraded old-age homes and informal settlements;
  • Billing queries to be resolved in seven days;
  • 24-hour access to city services via a call centre, website, live portal and people’s centres (right now, the city does not answer its phone lines at all);
  • Smart procurements apps to stop corruption (the city’s fleet management, the Johannesburg Property Company, the Johannesburg Roads Agency are among metro entities infiltrated by corruption networks);
  • To cut queues at clinics and protect patients’ data;
  • More nurses and more clinics closer to people who need them; and
  • Drug treatment centres and rehabs run by the city.
Dr Mpho Phalatse on 2 October, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)

Who is Mpho Phalatse? 

The telegenic Phalatse is a doctor with a specialisation in public health. She grew up in the Bophuthatswana homeland and entered politics at the instigation of the DA’s former MPL Heinrich Volmink, who, like Phalatse, is a specialist public health physician. He persuaded her that the only way to fix the system was by becoming a public representative.

She applied to the DA to become a councillor and was sworn in in 2016. She served as an MMC under Mashaba. That short term gave her good public administration experience, said DA veteran Mike Moriarty, who was Phalatse’s campaign manager.

He said the mayor’s priority would be to fix the city administration, which had declined through political instability and then the Covid-19 period when many of the city services ground to a halt. DM

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    • Yes Charles, and Ekurhulene as well. Both women. Both seem capable. But gosh, it is going to be tough. No coalition agreements. Would love to be a fly on the wall when there are council meetings. Don’t think the EFF is going to make it easy, and we might just see more jars broken on tender skulls. The situation in these two big metro’s (maybe more) could however also start to play-out in parliament in 3 years time, if the ANC drop bellow 50% in the national election, which at this early stage is more than just a possibility. Can you imagine if the President of the country is then also selected by opposition parties, and a non-ANC President. Maybe, just maybe, true democracy will come into play, the first time in two decades. But between now and then we can expect a lot of drama, and if I was Netflix I would already start to write a documentary script…not to be missed, at a TV near you

        • Your right off course Shaun….but for the last 20-odd years, since Madiba’s time, parliament was dominated by a one party state, with many important positions in parliamentary committees all coming from one single party, many of who selected via cadre deployment, and not ability. But a President of the country has immense power, especially as he/she can appoint the cabinet, thus ministers, as he wishes. And history has proven how many ministers were nothing but cadre deployment, with Lithuli House basically calling all the shots. And many of these ministers were not only incompetent (many still are), but also with question marks around their oath of office, serving a political party, and not citizens of the country.

  • Wishing you good luck, Dr Phalatse; an always necessary ingredient for even the best of leaders.

    A good piece of advice given to me when I first stepped up the corporate ladder, was, never be afraid of appointing really talented people for fear they might overshadow you; great leaders, build and develop great teams, and sycophancy is never a good basis for building lasting success.

  • Great news! I wish the DA would be more statesman like and stop petty politicking – surely a coalition with ActionSA was possible and would have been a strong strategic move?

    • A DA/ActionSA coalition (or even a complete merge) does seem like a strong strategic move for both parties, particularly the DA on the back foot. But like chess, which is surely the most infinitely complex game of pure strategy, unless you watched every move of the high-stakes negotiations, you don’t know which side blundered or acted in bad faith or both.

  • Local government is less about politics and more about service delivery. Now the DA has an opportunity to demonstrate its integrity, competence and professionalism to fix Johannesburg. Appointing a mayoral committee of competent and honest people from across the political divides will be a great start. Good luck to Dr Phalatse.

  • I am going to hope that we see a similar situation to what I have experienced working in Ethiopia quite often. In that country, I have always tried to work only with companies and service providers owned or managed by women and it worked well for me. With the notable exceptions of a few you know whos, let the women have a go at running our institutions, the men haven’t been doing so well.

  • Good luck doc. This is going to be one seriously twisty rollercoaster ride, especially with all your friends in council muttering that Mama Helen bought your ticket in the front row, because political rhetoric.

    • She certainly has commendable quick-win plans. But plans and execution are two different things altogether, especially in this non-coalition council, which really gives her very little real power. And with “Mama Helen” and “Papa John” biting at her heals, I think the real winners eventually will be the minority parties. But is she can manage to overcome these “minor” problems, including the shackles (as per Themba) of Mama and Papa, I will be inclined to support her all the way to the “White House”.

  • The challenge of the minority economic beneficiaries (DA) running government at the pleasure of the marginalised (EFF & “ActionSA”) is an ideal solution for the non puritanical political landscape in SA. Everybody has to sacrifice their ideological puritanism to make it work. Unfortunately, the DA Fed Council is currently, like FW de Klerk, incapable of embracing the challenge of this paradox. Only if the DA unleash their mayors will enduring administrations emerge. I believe Mpho Phalatse is fully capable of pulling this off but only if she is freed from the bumbling Zille shackles.

    • Although I am sure you know what you mean, I simply don’t know what you are trying to say. How is the setup an “ideal solution”? Are you aware of anywhere in the world where there is a “puritanical landscape”? What ideological puritanism does the DA have to sacrifice? In what sense is the DA like de Klerk?

      What you seem to be missing is that the DA has said repeatedly upfront: it will not sacrifice its aspiration to govern well (its ideological puritanism, if you like) to those who would compromise this aspiration by condoning or tolerating or protecting the corruption hierarchies within local government. It would rather form a strong opposition. In effect, it is saying that a stable government that tolerates and perpetuates corruption is not worth having. Ultimately, it is the electorate that has to decide whether or not it wants stable government that will root out corruption. At this stage, that means that, at a minimum, the electorate has to withdraw its support from the ANC and EFF.

  • Please confirm if the below claim is true:
    “The telegenic Phalatse is a doctor with a specialisation in public health”.
    Did she complete her specialisation?

  • If spacing is required during COVID please divide staff servicing the public into shifts 7am – 7pm for 7 days a week!! There are so many backlogs requiring attention and there are people who would prefer to work earlier or later or over weekends…

    • Interesting comment…in a large town close to me, Vredenburg, a West Coast town (part of Saldanha Bay municipality), with some 60000 residents, and under DA administration, there is/was not a single public facility for Covid-19 vaccinations. There are however two vaccination sites, providing you are a member of a Medical Aid. No wonder the DA failed to get over the threshold in terms of votes, this last local elections.

  • Ever seen a man in South Africa take orders from a women ? I am afraid the prejudiced runs deep such is the evidence with our GBV and teenage pregnancy rates. We are still mired in the legacy of the groot manne like Shaka Zulu, mad Makanda and Oom Paul, to think our female compatriots will be able to tell the majority of the men of this country imbued with their toxic masculinity to even listen or follow orders?! I still grieve for Uyinene Mrwetyana my fellow Kingswoodian and all the other women who are victims of this toxic society filled with a-holes like Zuma , the Guptas, Ace and all the others. Only by becoming one of them like NDZ or Duarte can women ever seem to be an equal! SA society and sick and needs to heal or nothing will change.

    • Well said! Andy van Aarde sings about “…the good men standing up…” and I reckon we must just start insisting that the good men participate…or else, as you say, I’ll be a fleeting hoorah that lands up being a NatPoep in stead of a LifeLine…

  • I have towns like Caledon, Bredasdorp, Gansbaai, Napier, Stanford, Elim around me…I’m an enthusiastic DM Insider…Yet, none of the above places stock the printed Daily Maverick…Common Sense dictates that I shop local, support the retailers closest to me…Yet, DM seems to have forgotten the OVERBERG (Western Cape Province, between Sir Lowry’s pass and Arniston)…What’s mission? Support is a 2way street, you guys! Get with the programme. The Overberg have some literacy… If you didn’t know, now you know…