Chaos in the City of Gold

Group work” is a concept dreaded by anyone who’s ever had to drag lazy, under-performing hangers-on through a school, university or workplace project. But it’s also what underpins any successful coalition government – pity that ANC and EFF councillors in the City of Johannesburg seem determined to avoid it at any cost. In case you’ve forgotten, the city was among those with a hung council after November’s local government elections. As we reported at the time, schmoozing and scrambling ensued, and the DA was pretty much forced to form a coalition to lead the City of Johannesburg, with its candidate Dr Mpho Phalatse donning the mayoral chain. Last week council proceedings descended into a fracas; amid arguments about voting procedures, councillors – Phalatse among them – and council staff were manhandled. 😯 Criminal charges were later laid against some EFF and ANC councillors. Neither the threat of police investigation nor a heavy security presence could prevent a repeat on Tuesday at a special council meeting called to elect council committee chairs and their big boss, the impressively titled chair or chairs. 💺

News24 reports that these committees “help provide oversight for governing the City, and the decisions taken by the mayor’s executive” – in other words, they ensure that councillors are working for the good of Johannesburg’s residents. In the wise words of teenagers everywhere, LOL.😜

Tuesday’s meeting featured numerous postponements, arguments about how voting should be done, and a walkout by EFF and ANC councillors. Just one vote was completed: congratulations (or condolences, given the enormity of her task) to Cope’s Colleen Makhubele, who was elected unopposed as the chair of chairs. The council will reconvene on 27 January to, maybe, elect committee chairs.

It was all rather absurd, but this is no laughing matter. It’s an early and alarming indication that the deposed ANC will do everything in its power to hobble the coalition. That means even less service delivery to already fed-up residents. If the ANC hopes to claw back votes in Johannesburg and other metros, it needs a new strategy – if the local government election results are a bellwether, voters will punish these sorts of antics hard at the polls in 2024. 💁🏽‍♀️

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 20 January 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.