Joburg speaker Colleen Makhubele axed by party – council turmoil deepens
Cope has axed its only Johannesburg councillor and city council speaker, Colleen Makhubele. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
Johannesburg Council speaker Colleen Makhubele was fired as Cope’s only member in council on Monday, leaving the local assembly in turmoil. Officials were unable to speculate on the next steps in a city where the mayor, city manager and council speaker have clouds hanging over their heads.
Cope leader Mosioua Lekota axed Makhubele on Monday for starting a political alliance, the SA Rainbow Alliance (Sara), without his sign-off. By the weekend, the streets of Johannesburg were plastered with Rainbow Alliance posters on green glossy paper.
The alliance does not have a website or information available to the public. However, it appears to be a small party alliance that Makhubele has nurtured, as discussions on future coalitions support the view that parties must pass a size threshold to govern.
Makhubele, for example, is Cope’s only member, while city Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda’s Al Jama-ah party has only one other member in the council. Bigger political parties use micro formations like Cope and Al Jama-ah as proxies in coalitions to fight more significant power battles.
Sara appears to have gone public at the weekend, mainly through the social media account of Bishop Marothi J Mashasha – and it has money. Its poster campaign is slick and Makhubele is its face. Sara calls itself a “pact comprising like-minded minority parties, civic organisations, churches and faith-based organisations”.
By Monday afternoon, city manager Floyd Brink had yet to receive a letter from Cope – a letter he needed to call a special council meeting to elect a new speaker.
Cope has previously suspended Makhubele when she voted to oust DA Speaker Vasco da Gama, but Lekota saw her as a protegé and reinstated her.
In July, Makhubele said in an interview that she had ambitions to lead Cope. Last week, Cope rapped her over the knuckles for going against the party’s position on the Israel-Palestine war. Makhubele supports Israel and last week also came out in support of Woolworths after EFF leader Julius Malema criticised the retailer for stocking products from Israel.
In a career of only two years, the political entrepreneur has become Cope’s second most prominent face. She faces a criminal complaint for the alleged misuse of council resources to build her base. In coalition negotiations to trounce the former DA mayor, Mpho Phalatse, she played a deft hand, using her single seat to win a plum position.
“[Makhubele] was a good speaker. She brought order and decorum to the house and ran meetings well,” said a senior official of one of the coalition parties not mandated to speak publicly. But the DA has painted a picture of a speaker with little respect for oversight. In September, the party complained in a letter to the national government of gross failures and collapse of oversight functions within the Johannesburg council legislature.
The 16-page memorandum to the Department of Cooperative Governance, which oversees the work of councils, laid out how meetings were not held on time and said Makhubele needed to attend oversight meetings.
“As the Democratic Alliance, we do not believe that the Speaker is discharging her duties in line with either legislation or the standing rules and orders of Council and thus request intervention…”
Gwamanda is facing a Financial Sector Conduct Authority investigation for running a dodgy community fundraising scheme.
On 6 November, the high court said Brink’s appointment was invalid.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Court finds Floyd Brink’s appointment as Joburg city manager ‘unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid’
A civil society crisis coalition, the Johannesburg Crisis Alliance, has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking him to place Johannesburg under administration.
Last week, Business Leadership SA warned of anarchy in Johannesburg and supported the call for action. This was after raw sewage flowed in the streets during the Soweto Marathon and was live-streamed to a shocked audience. DM