She’s out; she’s back in; she’s out again – Mpho Phalatse removed as Johannesburg mayor
After intense deliberations and horse-trading behind closed doors, minority parties in the City of Joburg seem to have decided on their preferred candidate for executive mayor of SA’s richest metro, following Mpho Phalatse’s ousting.
The DA has again lost control of SA’s richest metro, Johannesburg, following the ousting of Executive Mayor Mpho Phalatse in a motion of no confidence on Thursday — this time to an unlikely candidate.
Phalatse was removed as mayor following a successful motion of no confidence brought by African Transformation Movement (ATM) councillor Lubabalo Magwentshu, who argued: “We are not surprised by the executive mayor’s inability to deliver services to the poor and marginalised people of Johannesburg.”
A total of 140 councillors voted in favour of the motion to have Phalatse removed, while 129 voted against it. Among the parties that voted in favour were the ANC, EFF, Patriotic Alliance (PA), Al Jama-ah and ATM. Those who voted against included ActionSA, the DA, ACDP and FF Plus.
The DA needed the support of the PA to defeat the motion, but negotiations between the two parties collapsed. The PA is said to have demanded two positions on the Mayoral Committee in Johannesburg and MMC positions in the Ekurhuleni metro — to which the DA did not agree.
Phalatse’s removal comes barely three months after she successfully had a motion of no confidence against her overturned at the Johannesburg High Court.
Before this, Phalatse faced several other motions of no confidence— some failed and some were withdrawn.
Johannesburg and the cities of Ekurhuleni and Tshwane have been led by DA-led multiparty coalitions since the 2021 local government elections, when the ANC was relegated to the opposition benches after its support fell below 50% for the first time.
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A well-placed source told this reporter that during the negotiations, the ANC attempted to have its candidate appointed as mayor, promising to give in to whatever demands would be put on the table — but the proposal was rejected. Eventually, the bloc decided on three names: Cope’s Colleen Makhubele, Al Jama-ah’s Thapelo Amad and the African Independent Congress’ Margaret Arnolds.
After further deliberations on Thursday morning, the minority parties decided on Amad, who was confident he would emerge victorious when the council resumed the sitting on Friday.
On the process leading up to his being named, Amad said: “It was a very difficult process, we had to engage, consult and do it again and again.
“An opportunity like this … it creates ambitions, it creates instability within the group, but at the end of the day, my name emerged uncontested. I am humbled that … everyone in the bloc, including the EFF, PA and ANC, are in support of this particular name.”
The leaders of at least four political parties, including the PA’s Gayton McKenzie, confirmed Amad’s endorsement as mayor.
Despite voting with the DA, ActionSA’s Gauteng leader, Bongani Baloyi, said that following the ousting of Phalatse their coalition had ceased to exist and they would consider fielding their own candidate.
“We believe we cannot continue to support their candidate again. We are firm and clear that we are going to nominate our candidate, going forward,” said Baloyi.
The motion against Phalatse has once again raised questions about the instability of coalition governments, particularly in large metros where political parties are often said to be pursuing their own interests instead of those of their constituencies.
Before the vote that ousted her, Phalatse gave her first speech of the year, in which she acknowledged the plight of Johannesburg residents since her term of office began. She pleaded with the councillors to take decisions that favoured residents and not their own political ambitions.
“The people of Johannesburg have suffered enough. The last few months have been difficult. They have been characterised by political instability as we wrestled each other for control of the city.
“We are sitting with an administration in limbo, without a city manager, a COO, and without a DBSA [Development Bank of Southern Africa] loan, all because we have been distracted by petty and trivial [issues], and our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, as well as [the] inability to build a working consensus,” Phalatse said.
Speaking to journalists after council proceedings, Phalatse said the outcome was unfortunate. “I feel sad for the city, I feel sad for the residents,” she said.
Phalatse poured cold water over allegations that she did not enjoy the support of the DA’s national leadership and that there were attempts to purge her.
Asked about her future in the party, she said: “I am not resigning from DA. The DA is a very big organisation and, yes, I do have a lot of support from the DA as an organisation.” DM