Herman Mashaba. Picture: SOWETAN
Herman Mashaba. Picture: SOWETAN

The process to elect Johannesburg's first citizen stalled on Thursday over the interpretation of what constituted a majority vote, leaving the metro without a mayor for almost a week.

Council speaker Vasco da Gama postponed the election of a new mayor to December 4 and 5 to get an independent legal opinion on what constitutes majority when electing a mayor.

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu said Da Gama was correct in seeking legal advice as there were different interpretations of schedule 3 of the municipal structures act as to what a majority in the council is.

“Our interpretation is that it must be the majority of all the elected councillors. The other interpretation says that whoever has the highest vote must be elected as a mayor of the city,” said Shivambu.

“Our interpretation, correctly, is that it must be the majority of the elected councillors, meaning that it must be 50% plus one.” Shivambu commended Da Gama for providing what he said was a sound basis for postponement.

The ANC has said it would launch a legal challenge to review the legality of the speaker's decision to postpone the eagerly anticipated election of a successor to Herman Mashaba, whose resignation in October came into effect on Wednesday.

The EFF has fielded its regional chair and caucus leader, Musa Novela, for the vacant post, while the DA has nominated its regional leader and finance member of the mayoral committee (MMC) Funzela Ngobeni. The ANC's regional chair, Geoff Makhubo, will represent the party in the mayoral contest.

Whoever wins will wield much influence on how the city spends the R65.5bn allocated for the 2019/2020 financial year. The top three largest parties wasted no time verbally attacking one another after the meeting adjourned.

“I heard someone from the ANC saying they are going to [launch] an urgent court interdict of this process. They are just going to humiliate themselves,” said Shivambu. “Which court is going to give you an interdict on the basis that you are seeking a legal opinion? It shows some of the weaknesses that define them, the former liberation movement.”

However, ANC spokesperson Dakota Lekgoete said the court was the final arbiter in any situation. “We are doing the court action precisely for purposes of justice. The speaker here in this council is a mediocre speaker. The DA is just postponing their pain, they are postponing what is a reality that is coming to them,” he said.

While Shivambu said it was correct for Da Gama to act as mayor, Lekgoete said the speaker had no legal right to act in that position, as it was the legal responsibility of the city manager to do so.

“The speaker is the head of legislature, he can't interfere with executive. He has no right to act as executive mayor. What is being done is a mockery of our establishment,” he argued.

DA Gauteng provincial chair Mike Moriarty said Da Gama's decision to seek legal opinion was the way to go. “We believe this is the correct course of action, as it will ensure the legal standing of the vote.”

The DA and its coalition partners — the IFP, ACDP, COPE and FF Plus — stand firmly behind ... Ngobeni to be elected as mayor so that the great progress of the last three years is not destroyed by the ANC whose default modus operandi is corruption,” said Moriarty.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za