Michael Apel

Joburg councilor Colleen Makhubele says she was not bribed to vote against her coalition partners in the city’s multi-party government. She says she’s done it before and would do it again.

In an extensive interview with BizNews, Makhubele – who is running as COPE’s mayoral candidate in 2021 – explains the reasoning behind her decision to vote in favor of a PAC-sponsored initiative to unseat DA-backed council speaker Vasco da Gama. This is despite COPE being part of a nine-party coalition leading the city after the 2021 local government elections with a total of 140 of the 270 council seats. Some councilors from COPE, IFP and ACDP – all of whom are part of the coalition – voted in favor of the move.

After rejecting Da Gama by 136 votes (50% plus one), Makhubele ended the day’s business by mistakenly considering herself an “acting speaker” until a new speaker was elected.

Acting as speaker, she announced the convening of an extraordinary council meeting on September 13. The mayor said Monday, however, that it was their understanding that Da Gama’s former position remains vacant until the acting city manager calls a council meeting to elect an acting speaker or a speaker from among the chamber’s members.

The DA therefore went to the High Court in Johannesburg as a matter of urgency, having the special meeting notice declared invalid and barring Makhubela from “exercising any statutory functions as Acting Speaker”.

Following the court ruling (detailed below), Makhubele played down its significance, saying she welcomed the ruling as it now provides clarity on the case going forward.

Explaining his decision to get rid of Da Gama, Makhubele says it was a move “out of frustration at not being heard, not being taken seriously, and because of the arrogance of the prosecution, the bullying and [feeling] how our voices and opinions don’t matter. So we decided that the Speaker should be removed because he is at the center of scrutiny and is holding the executive to account, which is not happening.”

The backlash following Da Gama’s release was swift. The mayor called out the actions of Makhubele and those who “supported and financed her
the illegal actions must be condemned in the strongest possible manner,” claiming that the move was orchestrated by the ANC in “an effort to seize power at any cost”.

DA deputy faction leader Bongani Nkoma confirmed BizNews that the police opened a corruption case to find out if money was exchanged. But Makhubele is adamant that it was never given.

In addition, she says that Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota fully supports the decision she made in the council: “As long as you uphold the constitution, you uphold your oath and comply with your regional structure, I am satisfied with your work. We are not a desperate coalition party. You are not there to promote the political and economic needs of the DA, ActionSA or Freedom Front Plus. You are there to serve the people of the country.’

Also, COPE’s regional secretary in Johannesburg released a statement stressing that the body was satisfied that Makhubele had fulfilled her constitutional duty by voting her conscience.

“She has continued to demonstrate tremendous leadership and extraordinary courage that has helped bring a different light and confidence that COPE has an integrated, strong and courageous leadership that can make decisions, no matter how unpopular the principle
there is a position. We hope this statement sets a clear record that Cllr Makhubele is receiving a mandate to act from COPE Johannesburg Region,” Mokete Ntoleng said.

When asked if she was nothing more than an ANC member posing as a Cope councillor, Makhubele made it clear that she would not apologize for being an ANC member in the past, as many have others in politics, including her party leadership.

“If the ANC comes today and makes an agreement that meets the needs of Cope and the people who voted for me in COPE … I will not hesitate to vote for the ANC. At this stage I see no difference between the DA and the ANC when you talk about corruption, mismanagement, fraud, what is going on, abdication of responsibility, [and] partisanship. It’s the same thing for me,” she says.

Responding to all the criticism she has been hurling in the media, Makhubele believes that she has simply become a “natural target” because of her openness. She says the real problem is that “the coalition itself is in tatters”, arguing that the multi-party government is only looking to protect its own interests.

On Tuesday, Falatse announced that the coalition had lost confidence in Makhubele as Speaker and would soon table a vote of no confidence in her.

Makhubele faces her future with the mantra that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics and she will face whatever happens.

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