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The business of the Johannesburg city council will finally get under way after chairpersons of portfolio committees were elected during another chaotic council meeting on Thursday.

The portfolio committees are crucial as they oversee the work of the departments they are responsible for by, among other things, considering bills, bylaws, and making recommendations on policy and functioning of the council.

The delays in electing the portfolio heads were seen as hampering Johannesburg in tackling service delivery challenges such as housing, water and electricity, and potholes.

The metro is the biggest in the country, with a budget of R73.3bn for 2021/2022 and contributes almost 20% to national GDP and about 40% to the economy of Gauteng. 

Executive mayor Mpho Phalatse has implored councillors to pull in one direction, saying: “Our residents are counting on us to get on with the business of the day ... let’s put our residents first.”

The council meeting on Thursday was the third attempt to elect the chairs of the portfolio committee after previous meetings were disrupted by EFF, ANC and minority party councillors. They were unhappy about the voting procedure and favoured a secret ballot, while speaker Vasco da Gama ruled that voting would be done by a show of hands.

The EFF, which wanted to contest some of the positions, made a U-turn and withdrew its nominees. During the council meeting on Thursday, the EFF again delayed proceedings and called on Da Gama to reopen the nomination process, but the speaker would have none of it. He explained that the process was closed at the last council meeting a week ago.

This meeting also collapsed into chaos, but at least managed to elect Colleen Makhubele as chair of chairs, the official who manages all council committees, before it was adjourned.

The chairpersons of portfolio committees on Thursday were elected unopposed. EFF councillors, and some from the ANC and the minority parties, sang struggle songs throughout the election process.

Those elected included councillors Ashley Sauls (finance portfolio committee), Bongani Nkomo (economic development), Nonhlanhla Sifumba (community development), Corrie van der Schyff (corporate and shared services), Gert Niemand (ethics and disciplinary committee), Solomon Maila (public safety), Peter Rafferty (oversight committee on legislature), Alex Christians (housing), Lerato Ngobeni (environment and infrastructure services), Lubabalo Magwentshu (health and social development), Wendy Alexander (transport), and Kevin Reddy (petitions committee).

ANC caucus leader and former executive mayor Mpho Moerane said: “The ANC has 87 out of 135 wards in Joburg. It is in our best interests to ensure the city is functional so that our wards get services. We will ensure that the council is able to serve its residents.”



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