Joburg to get another no-name brand mayor as Thapelo Amad walks the plank
Major African city set for fifth mayoral chains change in under five years.
Johannesburg, still South Africa’s economic heartbeat, is set to get another no-name brand mayor as Thapelo Amad walks the gangplank.
Amad, with only 87 days in office on April 24, has shown himself to be a woeful executive mayor of the city of 6 million people, and was facing a motion of no confidence on Tuesday.
This means that the council executive has been dissolved and the sitting will not go ahead as planned.
Joburg will get its fifth new mayor since the July 2021 local government election and its ninth since 2016.
The Daily Maverick has canvassed the significant parties in the city’s multiparty government. The ANC supports a position which replaces Amad with Kabelo Gwamande, one of the three Al Jama-ah councillors in the city. The Johannesburg speaker, Colleen Makhubele, of Cope, also covets the position. She is close enough to the ANC regional leader Dada Morero to get the nod.
The ANC and the EFF are using Gauteng’s three major cities (Johannesburg, Pretoria – the Tshwane council – and Ekurhuleni) as battlefields for a political alliance that will kick in after the national and provincial elections of 2024. The governing ANC is likely to lose the urban province of Gauteng, which is always more politically choosy than the rural heartlands of the party. It is shoring up support by giving in to the upstart EFF’s whims in the three cities. The EFF is a kingmaker party which can win up to 13% of the national vote in 2024, its polling by Ipsos has shown.
Amad, who promised a big fix for the beleaguered Joburg in 100 days, must catch up to his schedule. In interview after interview, he has shown himself as a woeful incumbent. In the most recent interview with the SABC’s Sakinda Kamwendo, Amad also revealed he had been showboating with loan sharks with whom he had been negotiating a way out of the city’s multibillion-rand deficit.
Johannesburg has an annual budget of R77.3-billion, but the lion’s share is spent on staff salaries. With an exodus to solar power, the city is struggling as its ability to extract energy charges from residents and businesses is being depleted. Almost one-third of the budget comes from the network and other charges that City Power, the municipal electricity utility, bills.
Amad has been such an inept mayor for what is still a leading African city that the Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie has put up his hand to wear the gold chains.
Read in Daily Maverick: All hail the imaginative Johannesburg Mayor Thapelo Amad!
The DA, with the second-highest number of seats in the council, seemed willing to give him the role, but only if the PA boss agreed not to enter into coalition agreements with the ANC anywhere in the country.
McKenzie won’t agree as the PA is signing up to different coalition pacts wherever it is kingmaker and is on a roll.
Insiders in the Johannesburg council have told the Daily Maverick that McKenzie no longer wants the job and will focus on the 2024 election effort for his party, which is blazing a trail in the working-class and primarily coloured communities. His choice for Johannesburg mayor is Margaret Arnolds, another no-name brand mayoral candidate from a small party.
Johannesburg is battling. At any point, there are more than 43,000 potholes on the 15,000-kilometre plus road network. In addition to Eskom load shedding, power cuts are regularly counted at more than 400 monthly. Water shedding is a trend in the city’s southwest (including Soweto); water cuts regularly afflict the East Rand and even the prosperous north. Wealthy residents are fleeing as semi-gration to the Western Cape and other parts of the coasts is a notable trend.