New Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
New Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

The collapse of the governing DA-led coalition in Johannesburg paved the way for the ANC to take back control of SA’s economic hub.

Less than two years before SA is set to go to the polls in the local government elections in 2021, the DA has lost the mayorship of two of the three metros it succeeded in winning via coalitions in 2016, when the ANC received a bloody nose from the electorate in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane, among others.

Only Tshwane remains and it is also at risk as DA mayor Stevens Mokgalapa has been sent on leave amid a sex scandal, while a vote of no confidence in the DA speaker is to be voted on in the capital city on Thursday.

The return of the ANC to the mayorship of Johannesburg has its genesis in the DA’s own fraught internal politics, which led to Herman Mashaba’s resignation following the return of the party’s former leader Helen Zille to the top echelons of SA’s second-biggest political party.

Mashaba resigned a day after Zille was elected to the position of federal council chair. He said in his resignation address that he no longer believed the DA could unseat the ANC and bring change to SA.

Mashaba’s resignation resulted in the city being up for grabs to whoever could get the numbers to elect a new mayor.

On Wednesday, the ANC was successful in bringing voting partners on board to elect a mayor in the hung municipality in which no single party has a majority.

The ANC succeeded in pulling together enough votes to elect Geoff Makhubo, a former finance MMC and the ANC’s regional chair in Johannesburg.

The DA was this time left out in the cold, as the party’s erstwhile voting partner, the EFF’s 30-seat strong caucus, voted for its own candidate, Musa Novela, removing a critical voting bloc for the DA.

The ANC’s success, however, seems to have turned the DA’s own formal coalition partners against it.

It is understood that Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Congress of the People (Cope) and United Democratic Movement (UDM) councillors were among the 137 councillors who voted for Makhubo.

The DA’s own candidate, Funzela Ngobeni, won just 101 of the 268 votes, despite the caucus alone having 102 councillors present. While it is widely accepted that the Freedom Front Plus and the African Christian Democratic Party – with their collective two seats – would have voted with the DA, it would appear that as many as three DA councillors voted against their own party.

Mike Moriarty, the DA’s Gauteng chair, when asked what went wrong for the party on Wednesday, said the coalition “collapsed completely”.

“There was obviously some kind of inducement to the coalition partners. But I think the real thing is any councillors who voted for Geoffrey Makhubo should hang [their heads] in shame. He is tainted with corruption,” Moriarty said. The DA did not know if one or more DA councillors voted with the ANC, but he said he did not believe it would do the party any good to go on a witchhunt to find the culprits.

“But we would hope that persons in good conscience should ask themselves do they really belong in the DA, and identify themselves and just voluntarily resign along the line.”

Asked what effect the vote would have on the status of the national coalition between the DA, the UDM, Cope, the FF Plus and the ACDP, Moriarty said it may or may not have an impact, but that it was up to the DA’s national leadership to have that discussion with those parties.

Geoff Makhubo was elected Johannesburg's new mayor on December 4 2019, thereby returning leadership of the city to the ANC.

Makhubo said in the council meeting after his election that Johannesburg’s residents should be on the top of the city’s agenda.

He is expected to put together and announce his mayoral council in the coming days.

The EFF said it was a “sad day” for the residents who voted the ANC out of power in 2016, as the “opposition parties, together with the DA, have now brought [back] the same rejected ANC through the backdoor”.