South Africa


DA coalition partner says Da Gama had to go to balance City of Joburg power dynamics

DA coalition partner says Da Gama had to go to balance City of Joburg power dynamics
DA councillor Vasco da Gama has been voted out as City of Joburg council speaker. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla)

The multi-party coalition is on the rocks following council speaker Vasco Da Gama being booted out through a motion of no confidence in the early hours of Thursday. Minority parties along with the ANC and EFF received the backing of Cope ATM, UIM,  an IFP councillor as well as two ACDP votes who are part of the multi-party coalition.

African Transformation Movement (ATM) councillor in the city Lubabalo Magwentshu believes that it is unfair for the DA to be occupying all the key positions in council, adding that it was necessary for Vasco Da Gama to be ousted as Speaker to allow for minority parties to take up that role. 

ATM has one seat in council and forms part of the multiparty government which was formed with the DA in 2021 following local government elections. 

The ANC still has the most seats in council but because they do not have more than 50% of support in local elections, they could not continue governing in the City of Joburg. The DA was able to elect their councillors to lead the city through an agreement with ActionSA, Patriotic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Freedom Front Plus, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and other smaller parties. The EFF stance of keeping the ANC away from government led them to vote in the DA, however, they are not a part of the coalition. 

“The issue here is very simple, we wanted a balance of power. Currently, there are two major players in the coalition which is the DA and ActionSA and now all the smaller parties are being treated like stepkids and they are basically bullied. When this motion came about from minorities from the opposition benches saying that they want to remove the Speaker, we saw this as an opportunity to balance the power. Instead of having one party in a coalition that has a mayor, speaker and chief whip, it leads them to bully us in a way. We were trying to balance the power,” Magwentshu said. 

The councillor explained that the ATM had been excluded from the national coalition structure which was responsible for the decision-making of the metro which he deems to be unacceptable. 

“Ideally those platforms are supposed to be there. At the local level, they are there but decisions are not really being taken at that level. They are taken at a national level and ATM is not involved. We do not have a say in what is happening there. 

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“Cope has a seat at that level but ATM and UIM don’t and when we inquired they said we would be part of that but it did not happen. Then when we inquired they said we did not sign the coalition agreement but that was not true. Then I signed another one but we were still being excluded,” he said. 

Joburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse safe for now, but plans to oust Speaker Vasco da Gama forge ahead

The motion of no confidence brought against Da Gama, submitted in terms of Rule 89 (2) and 94 (1) of the Standing Rules and Orders of the Council, was brought about by the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and seconded by the African Independent Congress (AIC).

Minority parties make up 11 seats in the council, but with the backing of the ANC and EFF, they were able to muster at least 131 votes against Da Gama. With the help of Cope (1), ATM (1), UIM (1) a member from the IFP as well two ACDP votes, they had exactly 50% plus one (136 votes) — enough to oust Da Gama. 132 councillors opposed the motion.

Speaking on behalf of the minority party, African Independent Congress councillor Margaret Arnolds told Daily Maverick that the sudden u-turn by some of the coalition partners was bound to happen, seeing as Da Gama is known for re-writing council rules. She then went on to deny allegations that they had bribed some of the speakers. 

“Why does she not show us where the bribery is? Because there was no bribery, people have just become tired of the arrogance of the speaker. And people have decided to exercise their rights” she said.

Al Jama-ah has dubbed Da Gama’s removal as “good news” with party leader and MP Ganief Hendricks saying it is a victory for small parties.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think those small parties with deep roots in the struggle will remove apartheid-style big parties from power. Al Jama-ah is a small party with deep roots in the liberation movements [that] has just been instrumental in removing an apartheid-based regime in a democratic South Africa. A victory for the people indeed and a victory for humanity,” Hendricks said. 

While the City of Joburg Executive Mayor Mpho Phalatse claims to have accepted the outcome of the vote, she has alleged that there was bribery which took place which lured their own coalition partners to vote in favour of the motion.

“As the multi-party government, we will introspect on what needs to be done to regroup, as Joburg cannot afford to be handed back to a cabal who places self-interest ahead of the needs of Joburg’s six million residents. We are nonetheless confident that we will restore order. This is but a speed bump on a long road. The repair and rebuild of South Africa’s economic hub has just begun, therefore our work is far from over. We intend on completing this term of office,” she said in a statement. 

What’s next in the city?

Now that Vasco Da Gama has been booted out, the ANC intends on hauling him before the Ethics Committee for allegedly wasting funds on an illegal council meeting which cost the municipality in excess of half a million rands. 

“Da Gama must pay back the money he wasted…Vasco da Gama for his incessant disregard of the law and municipal systems must also form part of these proposed corrective actions,” ANC Joburg secretary Sasabona Manganye said in a statement.

Magwentshu told Daily Maverick that discussions were underway to install Cope’s Colleen Makhubele as the Speaker. 

The minorities want someone coming from their parties to be the new Speaker and this is Cope Colleen Makhubela who is a part of the coalition.” DM

See what happened in Knysna this week:

DA-led alliance loses power in Knysna council to ANC-led coalition


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