DA loses Johannesburg speaker, sparking fears the mayor might be next

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Councillor Colleen Makhubele was elected the new speaker, defeating DA councillor Alex Christians by 12 votes. Photo:  Christopher Moagi
Councillor Colleen Makhubele was elected the new speaker, defeating DA councillor Alex Christians by 12 votes. Photo: Christopher Moagi

POLITICS


A hastily arranged multiparty caucus before the election of the City of Johannesburg speaker yielded no results, as the DA-led coalition government failed to retain the position which it held since the local government election late last year.

This after Congress of the People (Cope) councillor Colleen Makhubele was elected the new speaker, defeating DA councillor Alex Christians by 12 votes.

With the ANC and the EFF in her corner, Makhubele received 141 votes against Christians’ 129.

Makhubele was just last month accused of being the instigator to a proposed motion of no confidence against Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse, which did not take place. She replaces DA councillor Vasco da Gama, who was voted out of the position last month.

READ: Unstable coalitions bode ill for governance

City Press has learnt that one of the DA’s coalition partners, the Patriotic Alliance (PA), refused to vote with the bloc, citing the DA’s arrogance before the election.

The PA wanted the coalition agreement to be reconfigured and to allow other parties to take the position of the speaker, but the DA rejected the suggestion.

“The DA had been totally unwilling to consider the request of all the other coalition partners to field a candidate from the IFP to take the position of speaker in a bid to balance power in the coalition more fairly,” the PA said in a statement.

After the election, the PA said although the vote for speaker of the Johannesburg city council was a secret ballot, the party had been open with the other coalition partners that they would not enjoy its support on the day.

The statement said:

Due to the disrespect shown to us by the DA during this period ... we will not be supporting their candidate for speaker.

The PA said the legalistic threats from the DA of attempting to enforce the rules of contract law and pursuing “consequences” for violations of contract law were laughable, but also deeply insulting.

The election of Makhubele comes barely two weeks after the DA successfully interdicted a council meeting she had sanctioned to discuss the appointment of a council speaker and the motion of no confidence against Phalatse.

The Johannesburg High Court ruled in favour of the DA, that Makhubele was not elected as council speaker at the time and didn’t have the powers to call for a council sitting.

But her appointment sends a signal to the DA that Phalatse’s future as mayor is not safe, as the coalition that removed Da Gama is expected to now target her.

Phalatse’s spokesperson Mabine Seabe said the Johannesburg government accepted the outcome of the election and that they would work with Makhubele to advance the service delivery needs of residents – and hold her accountable if she does not act in the interests of the city.

Seabe said in a statement:

Our focus is not politics. Our focus is on the people of Johannesburg and the delivery of services...

He said Makhubele had a mammoth task ahead of her, as the speaker must ensure that the residents have confidence in the work of the council, which includes deepening democracy, boosting citizen empowerment and stakeholder participation and involvement, improving governance, and socioeconomic development and service delivery.


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