Former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The ANC-led Gauteng government has threatened to take over the running of Johannesburg if the city fails to elect a mayor in the next seven days.

Gauteng premier David Makhura said on Tuesday that if the city did not elect someone to replace former DA mayor Herman Mashaba on Wednesday, he would give them seven more days, “failing which, the provincial government will intervene decisively”. 

The city has been without a mayor since Mashaba’s resignation became effective on Wednesday last week.

The council was initially set to elect a mayor last Thursday, but the meeting was postponed by speaker Vasco da Gama in order to obtain a legal opinion that would indicate exactly what a majority entails when a mayor is elected. 

Makhura said there was no governance in the city as a result of the postponement.

“There is administrative and governance chaos in the city and all surveys point to the fact that service delivery has taken a deep knock and residents are suffering. There is a total mismanagement of the city, which has eroded public confidence,” Makhura said.

The provincial government can intervene in a municipality in terms of the constitution in various ways, including assuming responsibility for running the metro, or placing it under administration, which would entail dissolving the council and appointing an administrator. 

The legal opinion obtained by the speaker advises that a majority should be read as a majority of valid votes cast in the election. This follows a process of elimination if there is more than one candidate, which is expected to be the case in the council meeting set to take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

The EFF, the ANC and the DA have all said they would field mayoral candidates.

The legal opinion holds that there would be an “absurd result” if it was interpreted that a majority would mean the majority of available votes, as it could lead to a minority party holding the city to ransom as it tries to elect a new mayor.  

No party has a majority in Johannesburg, and electing a mayor is a numbers game that depends on how many partners a party can rope together to support their candidate.

The DA successfully elected Mashaba in 2016, with the help of its coalition partners as well as the EFF. 

The coalition was necessitated by the outcome of the elections, which saw the ANC lose its majority in Johannesburg and Tshwane.

However, the situation three years later is more complex as the EFF has now fielded its own candidate, Musa Novela, which complicates the political mathematics needed to pass the vote.

The EFF is still the kingmaker in the metro and its actions will have a significant effect on who is elected, even if the party abstains from the vote. 

Makhura also expressed deep concern about the state of governance in the City of Tshwane.

Tshwane is also in turmoil, with mayor Stevens Mokgalapa taking leave in the wake of a sex scandal. EFF and ANC councillors have signed a request to hold a special meeting on Wednesday and Thursday that is set to take place concurrently with the Johannesburg meeting. 

Makhura said the provincial government would continue to intervene in municipalities affected by governance chaos and maladministration, to ensure that service delivery is not affected and residents do not suffer because of political chaos.

The provincial government recently intervened in the West Rand District Municipality because of that municipality’s “governance and financial paralysis”.

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