METRO POLITICS INTERVIEW
Cope’s Colleen Makhubele unshaken after causing a stir in Joburg coalition government
Congress of the People councillor and chair of chairs in the City of Johannesburg, Colleen Makhubele, is undeterred by the backlash she has received from ActionSA, the DA and her own national leadership.
For someone who started her political career just last year, Cope’s Colleen Makhubele is already making a name for herself. The Giyani-born businesswoman has been at the centre of the row over Vasco da Gama’s ousting as council Speaker, which has led to her own party’s leadership being at odds with her. She has received backlash from the DA as well as ActionSA, but maintains she is not bothered by the criticism.
ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba took to social media to call Makhubele “a minion of the ANC”, while Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem told the media that discussions were under way about what action would be taken against Makhubele for voting with the ANC.
“We have just adjourned the meeting and we are busy dealing with the issue of Colleen. The people of Johannesburg have said they do not want to see the ANC in government again in Johannesburg and we cannot turn our backs on the people and put the ANC back into power. As Cope, we will never allow that thing to happen.
“Look at how our country is looking, look at how Johannesburg is looking under the ANC government,” he said on Monday.
If you ever needed evidence that Colleen Makhubele is a minion of the ANC in Johannesburg…
“The ANC will come through the front door…” pic.twitter.com/WdwH3Z2znF
— Herman Mashaba (@HermanMashaba) September 5, 2022
Makhubele is one of five councillors in the City of Joburg multiparty coalition who voted to remove Da Gama from his position as Speaker last week, and she is sticking by her decision.
“What Mashaba says about me adds nothing to my life. Honestly, I am not having sleepless nights. So, I am not even interested in commenting, because what is his interest in Cope? He should be focusing on ActionSA matters.
“What I have noted with ActionSA is that they agree with our stance, the jealousy is that it did not come from them. They backtracked in the media because they are saying the DA cannot have a Speaker and a chief whip and that the DA is arrogant, so why the hypocrisy, why did they not vote the right way?” she said.
— Corné_Mulder (@MulderCorn) September 5, 2022
She said that her decision to vote for Da Gama’s removal was mandated by Cope’s regional leadership, to which she reports.
“They [the region] have been happy with my decision and they have come out to say in a report to [the] national [leadership], that they have given me the mandate to vote in this manner. Everything that I do in council I consult with my region. I am not going to go into our issues with national leaders as the legitimacy of some who are raising issues is in question — they have not consulted with my region, they are just making statements in the media,” she said.
The City of Joburg’s chair of chairs believes the DA had continued to undermine the power which smaller parties hold in council, until last week when they were dealt a blow.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “DA coalition partner says Da Gama had to go to balance City of Joburg power dynamics”
She said the DA even went as far as trying to gag her by sending lawyers’ letters threatening legal action if she held a press briefing in her capacity as chair of chairs or acting Speaker.
The press briefing went ahead on Monday, where Makhubele spoke out against the DA, joined by minority opposition party members from the Pan Africanist Congress, African Independent Congress, African Heart Congress, African Transformation Movement, Al Jama-ah and Good.
Most parties are in favour of booting out Executive Mayor Mpho Phalatse and are likely to give the ANC a chance to govern in the city yet again.
“There are many things we have agreed not to vote together on, but because the DA at the time had the numbers or the support to be able to pass options it was not a problem. We have even abstained from some of the decisions because we did not agree with them.
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“In this particular instance, it shocked the DA and so suddenly our votes mattered. The DA cannot force me to vote in a particular way, the Constitution of this country and the oath we took as councillors is clear that we vote with our conscience, with the primary focus being to serve the residents of the city of Joburg, not to serve the DA.
“All parties must have an equal voice and say and share power and you do that through the positions you allocate, and even Mashaba alluded to this — we should not have given the DA the mayor, Speaker, a mistake was made,” she said.
The city is due to elect another Speaker and there is a strong sense that Makhubele will be the candidate endorsed for the position, which was confirmed by the ANC’s caucus leader in the Johannesburg City Council, Dada Morero.
“If they do nominate me, it will be an honour and my region will let me know whether I should accept or not and we will check who is supporting me,” Makhubele said.
How Makhubele got into politics
Makhubele holds qualifications including a Business Administration diploma and a Project Management certificate from Unisa. She is a chartered financial analyst, an Investment Foundation Certification holder, and has a Finance for Non-Financial Managers certification from Stellenbosch University, an Information Technology Engineering honours degree from Malaysia as well as a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Milpark Business College.
She is the founding member of the Mzumbe Group and was the chief executive officer overseeing the company portfolios in ICT, energy, and manufacturing. She has led and served on several boards of private and state-owned companies, including the South African Post Office, but was axed in 2020 after she accused the then communications minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, of abusing her powers and acting unconstitutionally.
Makhubele is a proud soccer mom and highlights that she lives an ordinary family life despite her achievements and busy schedule.
“I am a mother of two. You will be surprised that every morning I am the one who wakes up to make soft porridge and their lunch boxes and sometimes I will go to soccer matches. So, I manage to find pockets of time for the family. I make sure the bulk of the time that I cook because it helps me connect with my children,” she said.
With this stellar CV, she believes she can make a difference in government and states that this should be the same posture young educated South Africans should be taking if they want to see the country succeed.
“Us professionals who are educated, we run to corporates, we run to business and we neglect the heartbeat of our communities,” she said.
Cope approached her last year before the local elections and she agreed to join the party based on its unified renewal strategy, which she thought could be an alternative for South Africa.
“The Congress of the People approached me and I started working with them. I understood the party, and the vision that the party wanted to accomplish by bringing in fresh and new leadership… the vision they advanced and what they wanted to do drew me to the party.
“I felt they were more actively engaging and sourcing young talent. They were serious at the time about finding competent people to deploy that are qualified, fit for purpose and skilled. That can lead the party forward, and not necessarily career politicians who just want to advance in the party and are not competent. So, that message was very clear and crisp in how they chose their 2021 mayoral candidates,” she said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “No-hope Cope proves how tough life is for small-time political parties in South Africa”
However, the party has recently faced challenges which culminated in party representatives brawling on national television.
[BREAKING NEWS] COPE members physically attack each other during their media briefing.
— Newzroom Afrika (@Newzroom405) August 31, 2022
This comes after party leader Mosiuoa Lekota was suspended with immediate effect for sowing division in the party. Lekota and National Chairperson Teboho Loate then retaliated by suspending Deputy President Willie Madisha, Dennis Bloem and the party’s secretary for elections, Mzwandile Hleko.
The remedy for this situation, according to Makhubele, is that the party holds an elective conference, as the legitimacy of some leaders has been questioned.
“Cope is not a one-man show, it is a collective… now we have to elect the leaders who have the authority to take the party forward. At this stage, we are behind closed doors trying to resolve these issues,” she said. DM