Michael Apel

It’s been a few weeks in Joburg, with the future of the multi-party coalition government under scrutiny – with Mayor Mpho Falatse herself potentially in the line of fire.

But the mayor believes her job is safe and the coalition is “as united as we’ve always been.”

It came after several councilors from the nine-party pact, which is governed by the coalition agreement, went rogue and voted with opposition members to oust DA council speaker Vasco da Gama. One of these councilors is Cope Colleen Makhubele, who acts as the council’s chairperson. Makhubele was in no doubt that she voted with conscience to remove Da Gama from office, despite the coalition agreement.

After Da Gama’s removal, Makhubele mistakenly assumed the role of “acting speaker”, but DA deputy faction leader Bongani Nkoma said BizNews the reins of government were to pass to the head of the city, Bryn Maduka.

Makhubele then used her position as “acting speaker” to call an emergency council meeting on September 13. At this meeting, most likely, the question of removing the mayor through a vote of no confidence was discussed.

Pending that move, the DA applied to the High Court in Johannesburg as an urgent matter to have the notice calling the special meeting invalid. In addition, the prosecution wanted the courts to get clarity on Makhubele’s role as “acting speaker”.

The court ruled: “The meeting convened by notice and scheduled for September 13, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. will not be held. Respondent [Colleen Makhubele] is declared to be the acting speaker of the first applicant [City of Johannesburg]. The respondent is prohibited from acting or purporting to exercise any of the statutory functions of acting speaker of the first applicant.’

Following the court’s decision, the mayor held a press conference to lay out the way forward for the council. Most importantly, answering the question of whether the multi-party coalition still has enough numbers to reject any potential no-confidence motions, barring any further incidents of ill-discipline by coalition councillors.

“With all the other parties still on board, we have at least 139 out of 270. We need a simple majority to make decisions on the council … which is 136. We already have three councilors above that 136, without the ANC and without the EFF,” Falatse says.

In relation to those who violated the party line and the coalition agreement, sanctions were adopted instantly.

“We are seeing councilors being kicked out pretty quickly. We have seen all the various coalition partners come into the party and put their internal rules and constitutions into effect to ensure that those councilors who cannot be trusted are removed. Councilors were replaced. We have seen the swearing in of councilors and that is why the numbers are being restored in a multi-party government,” says the mayor.

As for Makhubele’s future and her continued role as chair of a multi-party government, she herself is likely to face a vote of no confidence in the near future.

Falatse says: “As a coalition, we have lost confidence in Councilor Makhubele. We believe that she is no longer fit to hold this position, and we believe that there will be someone better in the coalition who can take this position forward.”

The technical group of the coalition will soon announce a candidate for the post of speaker.

Interview requests sent to Makhubele went unanswered.

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