South Africa

JOBURG COUNCIL CHAOS EXPLAINER

Mpho Phalatse walks, Champagne corks pop and the SA Multi-Party Charter teeters

Mpho Phalatse walks, Champagne corks pop and the SA Multi-Party Charter teeters
From left: Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake) | MMC for Transport in Johannesburg Kenny Kunene. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle) | Former mayor Mpho Phalatse. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

Another day, another chaotic sitting of the Johannesburg City Council, starting with a new motion proposed to dissolve the council, which has pitted the DA against its new Multi-Party Charter partners over at ActionSA. Meanwhile, sushi king Kenny Kunene has been catching flak for supplying a bucketful of Champagne at an office party. Who can blame Mpho Phalatse for quitting politics to go back to medicine?

Not even two months have passed and another explosion is rocking Johannesburg. This time, it is a political explosion. The acrimonious city council is at it again. Can Johannesburg survive its politicians? I’m not sure. Here are five things you need to know about the goings-on in the city this week where the DA attempted to table a motion to dissolve the council in November, two years after the 2021 election. 

1. A motion to dissolve Joburg government and hold fresh elections

The DA attempted to table a motion to dissolve the Johannesburg Council at a chaotic sitting on Tuesday, 29 August. Caucus leader Belinda Echeozonjoku tried to table the motion but was barely heard, News24 reported. The DA withdrew support for a planned motion of no confidence tabled by Action SA, which was meant to be heard this week.

That motion could have toppled Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, the city’s third mayor to take the chains in 2023 alone. 

The DA has as much chance as a snowball in hellfire of succeeding in its motion because the council can only be dissolved with a two-thirds majority vote. The ANC holds the highest number of seats and has the support of its partner the EFF, so the DA won’t come close to the votes it needs.

Why did the DA do this? That brings us to point 2.

2. The DA’s politicking in Johannesburg brings Multi-Party Charter partners to blows. Already.

The Multi-Party Charter pact, a coalition of seven parties, is already taking strain. When the DA withdrew support for Action SA’s motion of no confidence in the Joburg mayor (also facing a Financial Sector Conduct Authority probe), party leader Herman Mashaba penned a furious letter to DA leader John Steenhuisen. As partners, Mashaba expected the DA’s support for the no-confidence motion.

DA insiders say that from their understanding, the pact starts only when the election season for next year’s provincial and national elections begins. But they signed before the cameras amid much camaraderie just a fortnight ago. There’s a Multi-Party Charter meeting on Thursday evening. Expect fireworks. The DA says it cannot work with the Patriotic Alliance. The Multi-Party Charter needs Gayton McKenzie’s party to get close to the majority it needs to topple the ANC in the 2024 election. 

3. Former mayor Mpho Phalatse quits

Who can blame her? The intelligent and telegenic former mayor of Johannesburg, Dr Mpho Phalatse, quit to return to medicine this week. The Johannesburg Council hardly sits in session; it’s a hot mess when it does. The Council is led by Speaker Colleen Makhubele (from Cope, a party dissolving like Disprin), who calls sittings as she pleases and is busier building a personal following than building a city. Phalatse had choice words for the DA’s caucus management as she pressed “send” on her resignation. She will stay with the DA for now.

4. What about Kenny Kunene and the Champagne?

The former nightclub owner and sushi king, Kenny Kunene, is doing a decent job as MMC for Transport in Johannesburg. He has won many kudos, and the roads are improving. He says that Discovery has reported that insurance claims for pothole damage on cars have dropped – a data point he uses to show there is improvement.

Kunene threw a party last week for Johannesburg Roads Agency women staff, and the refreshments included a bucket of Champagne. He said he had paid for it himself (Kunene always buys the refreshments at Johannesburg Roads Agency functions because the agency is cash-strapped). The DA accused him of insensitivity to the plight of Johannesburg residents, who are buckling, if you look at the levels of homelessness, and begging. He accused the DA of being “Satan”. So, it goes in coalition land, Joburg style.

5. Even the ANC wants Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda gone

Earlier in August, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that Johannesburg needed a better leader and that the ANC caucus leader, Dada Morero, should be mayor. The ANC has the highest number of seats (but that needs to be higher for a majority in the 270-seat Council).

By ANC coalition principles, it should hold the mayor’s chains. But Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi ignores the ANC headquarters to keep the EFF happy. After all, he will need the red berets to stay in power after the elections next year. It’s all very Machiavellian. The people don’t even figure.

There are three significant campaigns by civil society brewing to save Johannesburg. These are a campaign by Defend Our Democracy, a second called Jozi my Jozi, which is business-led (see our webinar here), and a third by Outa, which will take the form of a community action network. 

Here’s what the Municipal Structures Act says about the dissolution of Councils:

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Martin Neethling says:

    What, one wonders, is the point of a vote of no confidence in Gwamanda, if the ensuing horse-trading results in a PA-supported cut-out mayor guaranteed to continue the farce? Nothing Haffajee says here makes any sense. If ‘even the ANC’ want the mayor out then the DA’s support is in any event moot. So it’s not wrong for the DA to suggest a dissolution, which in fact would be the actual opportunity to put the Multiparty Charter to the test. Why frame these events as petty politicking between the DA and ActionSA? Or Phalatse’s resignation from a council that is ‘a hot mess’ as if the latter is on the DA?
    The current shambles is because the PA demanded more that was its due and more than what it agreed to at the outset. On two occasions the PA supported the ANC-EFF vote because of this, and the result is Makhubele as speaker, serial mayor incompetents, and the ‘hot mess’ that ensues. Another round of no-confidence is just play-acting, and Beaumont presumably knows this. The DM can surely capture these nuances a bit better.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The opposition moonshot coalition is looking more and more like that russian moon landing :/

    Problem : the ego’s of parachuted political faithful over direct election of individuals. Bring back the bad old days when there were a fraction as many councillors, all had day jobs, they were paid expense allowances only and most people in a ward could name their representative, not their ward’s political party.

  • Bosman Puren says:

    This is our only chance to get this right. The multi-party should stop this childishness and focus on getting the ANC and that other party out. Stop bickering over technicalities like when the multi-party pact begins ( DA says its when election season starts and does want it wants until then but then refuses the PA because they are not yet “toeing the line”. Smelling some hypocrisy….) please try and get it right. The ANC laughing all the way to the elections.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    “DA insiders say that from their understanding, the pact starts only when the election season for next year’s provincial and national elections begins.”
    Are they brain dead? You need to hone your skills long before the actual event. Just imagine, a sportsman or woman decides to train the day the competition starts. Steenhuisen lacks professionalism and is guided by someone (Zille) who is far beyond her sell by date. They had an ideal opportunity to groom the good doctor but are to much in love with their own egos. With these clowns, the ANC will continue to govern for the next thirty years or until there is nothing left.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    The DA are doing what they normally do, and that is thinking they can operate on their own. will be the only way They need to get off their high horse and work with their partners, and Steenhuisen should censure those who did not support ActionSA, or he should step down himself if he does not do that as it would show how weak he is. The country wants to get rid of the ANC and solidarity in the opposition parties, including the Patriotic Alliance is the only way this will happen

    • Willem Boshoff says:

      The DA taking a principled stance is often dismissed as being on a high horse. Quite often their actions end up being vindicated, but only after the media painted them in the worst possible light. I would hope that the DM seeks explanation from the DA (or any other party for that matter) in future before jumping to conclusions. The whole taxi-strike debacle was hung around the DA’s necks until the facts emerged. Back to the issue at hand: an unprincipled coalition will be as disastrous as the ANC/EFF/PA collaboration in JHB.

  • Peter Streng says:

    Johan Buys’ comments about the inherent fatally flawed elections and structures of local governments, has much merit.
    In addition, the mindless votes of no confidence, the disruption of meetings/sittings, the partisan Speakers, the incompetent and corrupt Councillors and Mayor’s all add to the moribund statuses of municipalities.

    • William Stucke says:

      Indeed. Why were City Councillors changed to full time appointments? Purely to give an income tlo more of the ANC Party Faithful, I suspect.

      No, we certainly DON’T need 270 full-time Councillors. What on earth are they doing with their time? Certainly not dealing with their constituents’ problems, except in a few cases.

    • Johan Buys says:

      Thanks Peter, some history: My grandfather was a city Councillor for prob 40y (and mayor for a stint – nogal first Afrikaans mayor) for one of the still top 6 cities. I have some his old election posters from I’d guess late 1960’s.

      There is no political party name on the poster…

  • andrew farrer says:

    When the Da play these stupid games, putting their over inflated ego’s ahead of what’s in the best interest of Jhb, i seriously start looking for an different party to give my vote to, and I’ve been a DA supporter since PRP/PFP days! Wake the fuck up and suck it up – without the PA your multi charter’s fucked. Yes, PA goes back on their word. But you know this. So instead of behaving like children take Gayton up on his suggestion of an agreement by the parties not to support anc/eff. BUT, take it a step further, make it a legal civil contract with huge financial penalties, with all councillors from all the charter’s political parties as signatories in their individual capacity.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Sad to hear you are going back into medicine Mpho. All I’ve seen written about you indicates a power individual of integrity. The DA and South African politics will miss you.

  • Patrick Devine says:

    Ferial, as you disparage the DA (as per normal), your failure to point out that ActionSA has never had, or has never communicated plans to have any kind of process or congress, where members can debate/discuss and vote candidates into positions.

    Currently, and since formation, ALL powers rest with Herman and his cabal, while everything the DA does, is public and follows very democratic processes, where all office bearers are voted into the positions.

    Your approach is extremely distasteful and your ethics questionable.

  • Roger Sheppard says:

    Ferial goes feral against the DA….yet again.
    How can anyone take on commitments with Gayton MacKenzie, and especially the DA. For 6 noted occasions now, the PA have stated they will support DA motions. 6 times they broke their commitment and voted ANC!!
    …the above just in case you had not read or heard dear Ferial Haffajee.

  • Abel Mngadi says:

    I am concerned that this coalition is moving in the wrong direction. My view is that they should be focussing on a proper strategy to win electorates than to be bickering among themselves. is this what is going to be happening after the elections? not good at all, as they are not singing from the same hym book. concerning indeed.

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