Executive mayor of Joburg, Mpho Phalatse has been ousted from the position by the city council on Friday (30 September), losing a no-confidence vote by 139 votes. The ANC’s Dada Morero was voted in as mayor at the same sitting, unopposed.

Phalatse’s exit is a significant upset for the multi-party coalition government that was set up to run the city following the 2021 municipal elections, and a major victory for the ANC and its allies in the city.

The coalition government comprises the DA, ACDP, FF Plus, COPE, IFP, and ActionSA, with the PA joining earlier in 2022.

The motion of no confidence was tabled by minority parties in the city and followed a controversial path to the actual vote.

The toppling of the DA-led coalition government started with opposition parties in the city – including the ANC, PAC, EFF and smaller parties – voting out speaker Vasco da Gama at the start of the month in a narrow result of 136 to 132 votes for and against.

This was followed by the self-appointment of COPE member Colleen Makhubele as speaker, which was subsequently declared invalid by the courts. However, during a legitimate vote earlier this week, Makhubele was voted in as speaker despite this.

Makhubele wasted no time in her new position setting up an extraordinary sitting of council on Friday to hold the motion of no confidence vote against Phalatse.

Feeling the pressure of the impending vote, Phalatse on Thursday attempted to interdict the process, questioning the legality of the “rushed” sitting.

“What must be highlighted is the irregular manner and haste in which the sitting of council was called ahead of recess, which takes effect from 1 October 2022, despite the speaker of council stating on 28 September that the extraordinary meeting would take place after the recess period,” she said.

“We accept the speaker’s right to call meetings but submit that to call a meeting of 270 councillors of the city in less than a day’s notice, without grounds of extreme urgency and special need, is in breach of the requirement that meetings must be called within a reasonable notice period.”

In court documents submitted in an attempt to block the sitting, Phalatse said she was not alerted to the motion of no confidence against her and that the programming meeting that gave the sitting the green light did so despite not being able to meet quorum.

Opposition parties said her court bid was an attempt to delay the inevitable.

Coalition crumbles

The coalition government has characterised the motions of no confidence against its members as an attempt by criminals to get their hands on the city’s coffers.

However, while the coalition puts out statements as a united front, it appears to be tearing apart at the seams.

Opposition parties were able to out-manoeuvre the coalition through breaks from within the coalition itself. Makhubele, a COPE councillor, is supposed to be part of the coalition but has turned against the group at every turn.

Her appointment as speaker was also supported by the Patriotic Alliance (PA) – another coalition member – which also voted with the opposition.

A key member of the alliance, ActionSA – led by Herman Mashaba – has also taken every chance to speak out against the Democratic Alliance, often placing the coalition’s struggles squarely at the DA’s feet.  This, in turn, has resulted in the DA expressing outright hostility towards Mashaba.

Responding to the ousting of Phalatse, the DA said that the entire process was a farce and that it would continue with its court action to prevent the election of a new mayor.

“The Johannesburg City Council meeting earlier today had all the hallmarks of a tragi-comedy as the speaker, on debut, ignored procedural protocol in her quest to push through the motion of no confidence in Mayor Mpho Palatse as quickly as possible and at whatever the cost,” said DA leader in Gauteng, Solly Msimanga.

“This was done because a court action brought by the DA to stop this sham meeting was being heard at the same time. Unfortunately, the speaker’s tactic worked, and the motion was carried before the court action could be concluded.”

Msimanga said that it was evident that the speaker had a political agenda to push through.

“The DA will continue with its court action to prevent the election of a new mayor and ensure that this railroad tactic by the speaker and her allies is brought to a halt and sanity prevails.”

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