JOBURG COUNCIL CHAOS EXPLAINER
Mpho Phalatse walks, Champagne corks pop and the SA Multi-Party Charter teeters
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: