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Confusion after Johannesburg council debate postponed over ‘ill’ mayor

Confusion after Johannesburg council debate postponed over ‘ill’ mayor
Johannesburg Executive Mayo Kabelo Gwamanda delivers the State Of The City Address on 6 June 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

Johannesburg’s State of the City Address debate was postponed after Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda fell ill, though his party leader said he was ‘fine and in good health’.

Johannesburg Executive Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda could not respond to inputs from various political parties on his maiden State of the City Address after he reportedly fell ill, forcing council proceedings to be adjourned abruptly on Wednesday.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, Al Jama-ah leader Ganief Hendricks, however, maintained Gwamanda was in good health and had been preparing to have dinner with him.

“The media is hoping that the mayor will die. He is actually fine and in good health. I am having dinner with him shortly. Do you think he would invite me for dinner if he was not in a good condition?”

Hendriks’ remarks have led to confusion about the mayor’s whereabouts, and health. On Tuesday, Gwamanda was due to address the media after his address, but he was a no-show.

On Wednesday afternoon, Council Speaker Colleen Makhubele announced the decision to postpone the meeting because of Gwamanda’s ill health. The announcement was followed by communication from the mayor’s office. 

“The executive mayor has been unwell since yesterday morning; however, [considering] the significance and importance of the day to the council and residents of the city, he, unfortunately, went against medical advice and attended the sitting. 

“He was seen by his medical team immediately after the address yesterday. Sadly, during today’s debate, his condition deteriorated, and the advice of the medical team on standby has been that he be excused immediately and present himself to a medical facility,” a statement from the mayor’s office said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Joburg’s new mayor defends allegations of dodgy dealings and lack of tertiary education

Elected just over a month ago, Gwamanda has been accused of being a delinquent leader and faces increasing calls to step down, with some political parties accusing him of not being equal to the task of leading SA’s biggest-budget municipality.

On Wednesday, ActionSA filed a motion of no confidence against the mayor, citing his alleged failure to take the council and residents into his confidence over the allegations of fraud that hang over his head.

“Johannesburg residents cannot be asked to blindly place their trust in a mayor’s leadership of a R70-billion municipality when he has serious unanswered questions of fraud hanging over his head in a coalition arrangement where his strings are pulled by parties like the ANC and EFF,” said ActionSA caucus leader Funzi Ngobeni.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Joburg mayor blames DA-led coalition for city’s financial woes 

The motion is due to be heard at a council meeting scheduled for 20-21 June.  

For the motion to succeed and Gwamanda to be removed, ActionSA will have to garner the support of the DA. It claims it already has buy-in from the majority of the smaller parties, including the IFP, UIM, FF Plus and ACDP. 

“Johannesburg deserves better than a mayor from a two-seat party that cannot be trusted by his own coalition partners to answer simple and direct questions about the allegations he faces. It demonstrates how his leadership of the city is nothing more than a charade while the ANC and EFF implement their real agenda with the benefit of being able to deny that they were in charge,” said Ngobeni.

Since his election, Gwamanda has failed to attend 17 scheduled integrated development plan (IDP) sessions, which prompted council Speaker Makhubele to chastise him and other errant councillors, saying they had undermined the sessions aimed at enabling service delivery.    

‘Vague and out of touch’

The DA’s caucus leader, Belinda Echeozonjoku, said the mayor’s State of the City Address had been vague, out of touch with the reality of the city’s millions of residents and a missed opportunity to take the city into confidence on various issues.

“He spoke about a people’s plan, but how would he know the people’s plan when he was a no-show at his own IDP sessions, where he could have received the real state of the city?”

IFP councillor Mlungisi Mabaso welcomed Gwamanda’s address, particularly as it related to interventions regarding young people.

“It is a step in the right direction, but budgets must be allocated to support this directorate,” said Mabaso. “Some programmes that were being implemented have been discontinued without reasons provided to the residents. Projects are not for MMCs and councillors, they are meant to develop our communities.”

Finance MMC Dada Morero will explain how various initiatives will be funded when he delivers the city’s budget for the 2023/24 financial year on 13 June. DM


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