Johannesburg Council gets another minority-party speaker – the AIC’s Margaret Arnolds
The Johannesburg Council has elected yet another speaker from a one-seat political party, while the DA was a no-show.
The African Independent Congress’s (AIC) Margaret Arnolds was elected speaker unopposed during a special council meeting on Monday.
This follows former speaker Colleen Makhubele’s axing from her political party, Congress of the People, last week for starting a political alliance, the SA Rainbow Alliance (Sara), without the party’s sign-off.
Arnold’s election was made possible by the ANC/EFF/PA alliance.
Speaking afterwards, Arnolds said it was a vote of confidence for minority parties and that she would endeavour to ensure services are delivered to all six million residents.
“Occupying the position of speaker in council would demonstrate the AIC is able to govern and that we have credible people. Despite being a small party, we are a party with influence. We have been leading the minority party bloc since inception. Rallying the smaller parties together was my brainchild,” she said.
“As a speaker, I would want to have the confidence of every councillor in the city and not be biased to one lot of councillors. I would want to ensure council is run smoothly and the six million residents of Johannesburg have services delivered to them.”
The outspoken Arnolds served as an MMC for three terms, including during the tenure of late ANC mayors Geoff Makhubo, Jolidee Matongo and Mpho Moerane. Her latest position was chairperson of the council’s Section 77 committee, which she will now have to relinquish.
There is no need for the metropolitan municipality to spend R600,000 on an extraordinary meeting just to elect a speaker, when an ordinary council sitting is set to take place next week.
The DA snubbed the council meeting, saying in an email to council chief whip Sithembiso Zungu that it had short notice.
However, the party’s Joburg caucus leader, Belinda Kayser-Echeozonjoku, said DA councillors boycotted the sitting because it was a waste of money.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Joburg speaker Colleen Makhubele axed by party – council turmoil deepens
“The DA will not be complicit in such a waste of money and will therefore not be attending the meeting. Our position remains clear: The Johannesburg Council must be resolved, and we will not give legitimacy to the doomsday coalition, while they are being frivolous with the taxpayers’ money.”
Kayser-Echeozonjoku said there was no need for the metropolitan municipality to spend R600,000 on an extraordinary meeting just to elect a speaker, when an ordinary council sitting was set to take place next week.
“In a cash-strapped metro, spending R600,000 is no laughing matter. We have been clear: The revolving door of mayors and speakers will not change Johannesburg’s dire situation,” she added.
Reacting to the DA’s no-show, the Gauteng leader of its coalition partner, ActionSA, Funzi Ngobeni, said it had been a missed opportunity to “take back the city”.
“It is devastating to the residents of Joburg that they will continue to suffer under the failed governance of mayors and speakers from parties with no discernible constituency, whose price for the privilege of leading Africa’s greatest city is for their strings to be pulled by the ANC and the EFF,” he said.
“Under this arrangement, Joburg’s infrastructure has declined rapidly, the metro centre where all officials use to work is now closed, and services have all but come to a halt.
“It must be known by every resident of Joburg, and those that look to the DA in Gauteng in 2024, that their suffering under the ANC and EFF is both avoidable and entirely the result of the DA.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Coalition Country
This comes amid calls to dissolve the council which the DA intends to bring before a council meeting scheduled for next week. It is, however, unlikely to pass because it does not have the required 180 votes for any motion to pass.
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 South Africa 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